Severed ties

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Even though I have not attended any classes or been affiliated with any New Kadampa Tradition (NKT) center for almost a year now, I find that the NKT is still something I end up talking about quite a bit whether on this blog or with my friends. There were many reasons that I left, none of which had to do with the quality of people I met there. Many, if not most of my good friends are people I met in the NKT. Some are, like myself, completely out of the organization, and others are still in but most definitely questioning their involvement, particularly in light of the recent protests against the Dalai Lama.

For the most part, my feeling about my former Buddhist tradition is “thank god, I’m out.” Plain and simple. No regrets. My current path, that of practicing the teachings of Anam Thubten Rimpoche, seems to be the natural progression. The NKT gave me a good grounding in the dharma, but I found that there was a lot of attachment to their view that their way was the pure way, and people fell very easily into a kind of fundamentalism. And there was a lot to do. Lots and lots of doing. The dharma that Rimpoche teaches strips away all the nonsense, all the ritual, and boils it all down to a single-pointed quest to realize our ultimate nature. Basically there are two elements: listen to the truth and get your ass on you cushion and meditate. It makes sense to me on a deep level, and not merely because the Teacher tells me so.

One evening I was talking to my good friend John who also has left the NKT and joins me fairly frequently for teachings at the Dakini Temple. As often happens, we started to talk about the NKT. And as I often say, I’m very happy I’m out. But, John countered, even though we are no longer involved, the NKT will always be a part of us. He likened his relationship to the NKT to that of a family. Like family, he felt like he had little choice of what Buddhist group he fell into. He wasn’t even looking to get involved, Geshe-la just seemed to manifest in his life at a very critical and vulnerable time in his life. He will be forever grateful for the teachings and the kindness shown to him by some really incredible NKT practitioners when he was very, very ill.

Also like family, sometimes we have to walk away because we can no longer grow within its confines. Or you leave because you disagree on things and you simply can no longer get along together. Yet, despite the separation and distance, they are still your family. And that is how he sees the NKT. It’s an interesting view. It implies that there still love in your heart, even though you may no longer have anything to do with one another. There are still some ties there, no matter how tenuous. And it holds the door open for a reconciliation.

I mulled that one for a while because the analogy did resonate with me. But, when I searched my heart I could no longer find that soft spot in my heart for the NKT. There wasn’t anger, nor did my heart feel hardened, there was simply nothing there. Even during the frostiest days of the cold war with my brother, I felt some connection. Sometimes it was merely the tiny molecules of DNA, but there was something.

For myself, I think I see my relationship to the NKT as more like a first marriage. I was young and naive in the ways of Buddhism. I jumped at the first tradition that would have me. I learned a lot though. The NKT introduced me to Buddha’s teaching in a clear, logical, structured manner, and for that I will forever be grateful. But, it had very clear ideas of how I should behave, how I should spend my time and who I should hang out with. And for a while I really tried to be the good Kadampa, to do everything right, and to be an aspiring Bodhisattva. But somewhere along the way, I lost touch with me. And like all relationships where you can’t be your authentic self, it simply could not survive. Happily, I’ve moved on. And I wish the NKT well, and hope for its own sake it deals with its issues. But, I have no interest in reconciliation. The past is the past.

But the NKT and I still live in the same neighborhood. We have friends in common so it’s still a topic of interest. And I still have opinions about the state of the NKT which I happen to think are quite smart and interesting, which I feel obliged to tell people who may care. I’m hoping that will change with time, and that my NKT friends and I can find some other common ground that our shared NKT experience.

In the meantime, I may still write about the NKT now and again. Especially as I continue to explore other dharma traditions. Please be patient with me.

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167 responses »

  1. It sounds like the NKT wasn’t the right path for you. I hope you can be happy with your current path. I think it’s best to find one path that you feel to be very pure and stick with it until you achieve the results of that path. For me it’s NKT. For you maybe it’s this current path you’ve found.

    Some people move from one path to another continuously and get nowhere. That’s a bad habit that we don’t want to bring with us into future lives. :)

  2. eye haven’t been afflicted with any new NKT Centres in awhile neither but it seams two me that NKT form is m. t. sew wen da struckchur dunt funk shun dats da same as not werkin right? sum thin has too change

    yer structures gotta funkshun or dere aint no instruction.

    The NKT introduced me to Buddha’s teaching in a clear, logical, structured manner, and for that I will forever be grateful. ~ sound good enough 2 me

  3. i love your analogy of your NKT experience to that of a first marriage. I get it now. I understand what you mean.

    With my second marriage the ending of it brought confusion, pain, anger, depression and a myriad of other emotions. After five and a half years the pain is quite distant… almost non-existent and only fond memories remain. I have a deep sense of gratitude for that experience in my life just as you have described about the NKT. I miss that experience terribly but certainly have no intention to go back.

    With this new found analogy I can now deeply relate to what you write about the NKT and so will be plenty patient. [hug]

  4. LB I am glad you write about the NKT. After ~8 months I still dream about it, contemplate, read and dream about NKT more. Weird dreams that are vivid and freak me out. It is an unsettling feeling, leaving NKT. In NKT I was sure of my spiritual path, out of it still floundering. What unsettles me most is that I cannot decide on a short narrative about why I left, even for myself. It was a waaaay-down gut instinct thing that said, “this ain’t right”.

    So I like it when your write about NKT, it helps me to think things through for myself, and it helps to know you are going through a similar separation.

    Jenny

  5. “And there was a lot to do. Lots and lots of doing. The dharma that Rimpoche teaches strips away all the nonsense, all the ritual, and boils it all down to a single-pointed quest to realize our ultimate nature. Basically there are two elements: listen to the truth and get your ass on you cushion and meditate. It makes sense to me on a deep level, and not merely because the Teacher tells me so.”

    -LB, have you ever tried Zen?????
    The criticism of ritual etc I feel could be applied to many sects within Tibetan Buddhism (or Mahayana Buddhism) in general, not just NKT.

  6. ” love your analogy of your NKT experience to that of a first marriage. I get it now. I understand what you mean.”

    -It’s funny because I went into the NKT with my eyes wide open – a few weeks after starting GP classes I researched the NKT and found out about all the controversies. So for me it’s like a first marriage only where you can see into the future and know where the problems in the relationship are going to be before they happen.

    It’s weird because I feel like I’m living undercover, as I know what topics are taboo within the NKT.

    Fundamentally though there are no other Buddhist groups near me, so it’s either them, or solo Buddhism. And I don’t have the self-discipline to fly solo.

  7. a waaaay-down gut instinct thing that said, “this ain’t right”.

    ya gots to listen to dat won ~

    And I don’t have the self-discipline to fly solo.

    sew ride them coat tails an furgit about the taboos or the boohoohoos or the inevitable screw yoos ~ people is as people does

    • marshmellows ~ you’ve never maid more cents

      u gots 2 bee tru 2 u even while you question the u that’s true = bee a YOU tiful

  8. Yeah

    It’s a bit more like a family to me (a completely disfunctional one). The NKT also manifested in my life at the most incredible moment. And it helped completely transform my life. I am now a dharma convert.

    But I’ve recently moved out of the house and am interested in playing the field a little. However, I don’t want to let go of my family completely, and I don’t think I will.

    I feel I am Gelugpa and won’t stray too far from that path now, no matter what I come across in dharma terms. I’m happy with my practices. I don’t think I could go Zen.

    So though I now have my own space, I’m likely to keep popping back home for Sunday roasts, if they’ll still have me.

    Ron

  9. On the other hand, right now I’ve half a mind to change my surname and deny my geneology. This family of mine seems to have lost the plot.

  10. Hi WisdomFire – I agree that eventually one should settle down with one path. However, I also now believe it is important to check out different traditions and different teachers to find the one the really resonates with you. After my first “marriage” breaking up I really feel the need to “date” other traditions for a while. While I’ve been seeing Anam Thubten fairly regularly, it doesn’t mean I’ve been exclusive. Who knows, that may be the one for me, but I’m staying open and enjoying my dharma adventure and trying to get as much as I can from every teaching I read or hear.

    Marshmellows – A good friend of mine, Annie, recently said to me “as we age, we become less form and more spirit”. I feel like that is where I’m heading in my spiritual life. In the NKT there is a lot of form – the organization itself, the rituals, the festivals, etc. I feel like I want to cast off the form – well not entirely, but I want to get to the other part of that equation – form is empty. Ya know?

    o ya one udder ting ~ yoos gottwo be true to you even while you question the you dats true

    Right on, brutha, right on. It’s been a painful lesson to learn, but I’m glad I learned it.

    Jenny – I’m glad I can help. Are you on your own in terms of dharma now? Are there any other refugees who can still be your dharma pals? I think it would have been much harder for me if I didn’t have my dharma pals who have been there, and understand what I went through.

    It’s interesting, even though I’m going to a couple of different centers on a somewhat regular basis, I still can’t bring myself to get involved yet. Maybe I’m afraid of getting sucked in again?

    Bloofs – I haven’t tried Zen. For whatever reason, it doesn’t appeal to me. I don’t think. Or maybe it does. Hard to say. ;) I do have a couple of friends (again, NKTers) who go out to a local Zen center so I may trail along with them sometime. Oh, and not all Tibetan is filled with ritual. Anam Thubten is pretty darned stripped down in terms of ritual and what not. Which is one of the things I really appreciate about him.

    I think it is possible to have a good experience as long as you can keep all the nonsense in perspective. I managed to do that for years – focused on the things that could benefit my mind, and avoided those that wouldn’t. Part of the reason for my break with the NKT came about because of a bad ending with a teacher. If I had had a different teacher who knows if I wouldn’t still be there.

    Jules – a big hug right back atcha. As a former NKT teacher, I am quite skilled at the ol’ analogy. I’m glad it resonated with you.

    Ron – I have to admit I have my moments when I’m a little jealous of those who still feel like they have a family. Sometimes it gets a little lonely being a recent dharma divorcee.

    Enjoy the roast!

  11. Hi LB,

    “In the NKT there is a lot of form – the organization itself, the rituals, the festivals, etc. I feel like I want to cast off the form – well not entirely, but I want to get to the other part of that equation – form is empty. Ya know?”

    I know what you mean..

    As HH Sakya Trizin says, ritual is very important, but “it is not necessary for everybody to perform elaborate rituals. Only the vajra and bell are necessary – and mudras”

    “Ritual is only a small part of tantra. The main practice is one’s daily meditation, visualization and recitation; the pracitce of physical yogas, breathing yogas, and so on.” (p.62, Treasures of the Sakya Lineage)

    ….but since tantra is method, it should not get in the way of realizing the other part of the equation.

    Thx for bringing this up. I do need to think it through..

    Best

    Shaza

  12. ifyer house broken then ya wont need papers ~

    seams like our hear rows (buddha atisha etc) pulled in stuff from a wide ver-artery of teachers two eh? eye guess them boys turned out OK

    seams like in the end its only about yer real Ashun ship wit yer guide (ya know the very subtle won at the heart?) and whatever papers (forms that is) necessary to clean up all our (ok lemme just say ‘my’) crap

    spiritual guide takes any form necessary to benny fit the stew dent right?

    bein a bit on the slow side sum thymes eye gotta rub me nose init fur a while until eye git the massage.

  13. “As HH Sakya Trizin says, ritual is very important, but “it is not necessary for everybody to perform elaborate rituals. Only the vajra and bell are necessary – and mudras”

    -That’s probably too much ritual for me, even.

  14. I’m new at this blog thing… so forgive me… but yours captured my interest! I don’t know if you answer questions on blogs but I’ve got one! I live in NY – I’m familiar with Anam Thubten as he comes here once in awhile ( he accidentally told my 9 yr old son there is no Santa Claus : ) NKT has a big center on Long Island . Rinpoche tried to talk about NTK while he was here once. He mentioned that the Dalai Lama never says much about various traditions but he did warn about the NTK ( suggested they were a bit of a cult ) I am curious if Anam Thubten has been helpful in giving feedback about the NKT and what you’ve experienced with them? I have a friends daughter that is involved with the NTK and she was there at Rinpoches Dharma talk. She got abit miffed at what he said.
    I have no interest in NTK but I must say that I can see how people get involved with them. I think they are filling a gap that can sometimes exists in Buddhism ( providing and easy accesible sangha ) I don’t have a formal Sangha here – but I notice NTK reaches out and offers things for families and children that just does’nt exist here on Long Island with other traditions. They advertise alot here! This bloggers comments struck me : ” I have to admit I have my moments when I’m a little jealous of those who still feel like they have a family. ” I think that is NTK’s big draw.That is what a Sangha should offer. I am curious if you get a sense of that family or united Sangha with Anam Thubten? Here is not here often for me to know how it would be to have a Sangha locally….
    Also, I just finished a book called ” A Buddha from Brooklyn ”
    Very interesting. I’m curious if anyone else has read it?

  15. Sharon – No need to apologize. You’re doing fine. Just jump on in, the water is fine. :

    The only thing that Anam Thubten has said to me personally about the NKT was when I met with him and confessed my NKT past. He was quite gentle, and said nothing disparaging about Geshe-la or the NKT. In fact, he said I should be grateful for all that I have learned and not look back in anger. And that was really the extent of it. And I’ve never heard him say anything in a public forum about the NKT. But, it doesn’t surprise me that he would say something as he seems to be quite open with his opinions and doesn’t seem to be too concerned about being seen as correct.

    I think one’s NKT experience can vary widely depending on the center’s students and the teacher. But, yes, you’re right, there are a lot of activities and classes and such and with that come a built in community. I think you have to kind of go with your gut if you go to check it out. Are people a bit too eager to have you join them? Do people seem just a smidge too happy? Or do they seem like a nice group of folks just doing their best to be good people and follow Buddha’s teachings? There are a lot of good practiitioners in the NKT. Just watch your boundaries and dont’ get sucked into things you’re not ready to do, or let yourself get guilt tripped into anything.

    I have not found the same community at the Dakini Temple (Anam Thubten’s headquarters, as it were). But, then again, because of my experience with getting sucked in and losing myself in the NKT, I am very wary. There is only the Sunday programs that I know of, so even if I wanted to get involved, there’s not much being offered.

    If you are looking for community, you might want to check to see if there are any Insight Meditation (Vipassana) groups in your area. They seem to be quite big on social activities and meeting in smaller groups to support each other’s practice.

    Good luck!

  16. I think it’s very interesting that I came across this post.

    I’m on a Christian-Buddhist mailing list and one of the member was mentioning how he was part of the NKT in his area and how much he loved it. He mentioned however that they are often looked down on by other Buddhist traditions.

    Funny enough from my research it seemed to me that there was too much dogma-like teaching, and rituals, etc, etc. Which I suppose that would make sense why someone who is also a devout Christian would enjoy that. It could almost feel like home.

    This is the exact reason I’m more drawn to Zen as opposed to something like NKT or traditional Tibetan Buddhism.

    Interesting post…thanks for sharing.

  17. Thanks for the invite to jump in on your blog : ) I decided awhile ago to stay away from the NTK as I take yoga classes with the girls Mom that I mentioned in my above post- She has has expressed several times some concern with the NTK group her daughter is involved with ( she actually introduced her daughter to Buddhism ) She was very pleased at first – but finds her daughter too wrapped up in personalities within the group. She said there are some strong personalities that lay guilt trips on her daughter and it concerned her. I had told her Mom about Anam Thubten and she is the one that invited her daughter to his talk. Her daughter did’nt like him at all . She even fell aslleep during his talk!! She was in the front row. To his credit he was totally unfazed.
    I like Anam Thubten because he seemed to be very genuine… My son really,really liked him -even tho he told him there was no Santa in a round about way ! Rinpoche was talking about several silly Tibetan childhood myths ( some were CRAZY ) and he compared it to Santa. My son put two and two together and said outloud , ” You mean there is no Santa ?! ” The audience laughed and Rinpoche looked at me like – oops! It was funny. My son sensed his kindness tho . I saw him again without my son and Rinpoche remebered him ( my son had asked alot of questions about God during his last Dharma talk and Rinpoche was very tactfull about it – I appreciated that ) When I saw Rinpoche he said , ” Tell your son I hold him in my heart . ” I told my son and he teared up. He said ” Mama, next time you see him tell him I hold him in my heart too, ” You have to know my son to know how shocking a statement that is coming from him !!
    Scottydoo! It’s funny how different traditions hold different appeal. I am scared of Zen!! I looked up a Zen group here and the man I talked to on the phone sounded so strict!!!! He scared me !!! LOL!
    There is a Insight Meditation Group in NYC that I would love to attend.. but I am abit to far away ( on East end of Long Island )
    I am hoping that there will be enough practicioners out this way that Anam Thubten will try and put something … we’ll see.

  18. I have heard many speak about the NKT. Some with approval and others with disdain. The problem may not be with NKT policies and then again it may be with NKT policies, official and otherwise. I mean this persons blog is rather honest. In my opinion, the NKT is not. Here is a natural conflict of ethic. I think this person needs to be in a place where there is complete openness, transparency, truthfulness; not in a place where honesty conveniently ‘depends’ on your motivation. Survivors of NKT yahoo group may be a good place for former members to gather and discuss their experience. I have not been a NKT member for several years. Not because I left, but because I was removed from the teacher training class after refusing to teach in a place where there was a $7 dollar charge. Buddha was clear – Dharma is to be offered not sold. I was remvoved the next day and my name was dragged though the mud for several days at a retreat after this – as I was told by a participant. I never went back. Buddha and teh NKT disagreeose Buddha. I am still a monk. I still practice Dharma. The NKT is not necessary to practice Dharma. Of course we only need three things: A mind, Dharma, and the Wish to practice. I wish you well lazy practitioner. May you grow in wisdom and all other virtues and may you serve as a guide to others in the future. Please stay honest.

  19. Sorry for the errors above. I am not a good typist.
    I just caught the mistakes after it was posted. I will correct them here:
    …I never went back (I should clarify here; as a student. I have attended several talks by NKT members over the past four years).
    …When Buddha and the NKT disagree I choose Buddha.

    Additional note: I found it helpful before being in the NKT to have read literature on cults. I have read a 1/2 dozen books on the subject. They were helpful in recognizing group manipulation techniques. I would often point out such things when I saw them. I find that groups will implement such strategies naturally without any awareness or grand scheme. I think they appear because group think is part of our evolutionary instincts. This is just my opinion. So when a teacher or group is accused of such an agenda they will deny it. However, they may be manifesting all the techniques having never read about cult techniques and having no knowledge of them. They may become insulted or just deny such a charge because there heart is in the right place. Sorry for the babble. I hope the words written here are helpful to someone.

  20. It seems to me there must be some variation in NKT centres around the world, based on the quality of their practitioners and teachers. Norsang’s story above is depressingly familiar on the internet, but my experience has been overwhelmingly positive. (And I thank him for telling that story – these things do need to be said). There have certainly been issues that have had me a bit concerned, and these have increased with the demonstrations. But the people at my centre are unbelievably benevolent and idealistic people. There have been no expulsions in my time there. There have been no ‘nasty’ moments. These are people who sit down and practice patient acceptance whenever they encounter difficult practitioners (such as I). I’m not sure if this is just a reflection of the more laidback Australian way.

    I don’t know what my future with the NKT holds. If it weren’t for the fact that attending makes me a pariah at other centres, I’d be perfectly happy there. Perhaps the reason it works for me is that it’s in my nature to keep people and institutions at arm’s length. For others, perhaps they’re better off not getting involved. I will say that I stopped attending classes two months ago when the Sydney demonstrations took place. My practice, and my professional life, has deteriorated badly. My delusions have increased, and my mind has become more erratic. Even here in Sydney, one of the great cities of the world, it’s difficult finding the kind of centre that can offer the structure and support that the NKT offers.

    I’ve mentioned elsewhere that my father was a Scientologist for 40 years. Now I consider that to be a noxious cult (beyond anything the NKT has been accused of). At age 20, I was once kept inside a room in an ‘org’ until I agreed to sign a document to work for the organisation for free for three years! Two months later I decided to move houses to get away fom their interminable harrassment. I wouldn’t hesitate to warn people away from visiting an ‘org’. But the funny thing is that it really worked for my Dad. This is absolute fact. It made him a far better and happier person, even though its entire ideology is based on fabrication and fraud. The NKT’s ideology is based on dharma.

    Just something to think about.

    Perhaps the acorn doesn’t fall far from the tree. Perhaps I’m just cult material, like my Dad. I don’t know.

  21. ScottyDoo – Welcome! I think you are definitely right about Christians feeling very comfortable with the NKT – particularly recovering Catholics. In fact, I see a lot people who have simply substituted Geshe-la, the spiritual director of the NKT, for Jesus. Rather than viewing Geshe-la or Buddha as a teacher, they make the mistake and see him as Savior,and therefore follow him unquestioningly in hopes of being rescued from samsara.

    I find the rituals in Tibetan Buddhism quite beautiful and they do put me in a much more sacred frame of mind. But, again, the mistake I see people making is that they believe that somehow the rituals are magical, and if they are “good Buddhists” and go to all the pujas, no matter what their state of mind, that they were earn brownie point (aka merit) towards enlightenment.

    There is effort made in the NKT to make Buddhism seem less exotic and more familiar. I remember when I was teaching a Sunday morning class, we changed around the usual format so that it more closely replicated a Christian church service = people will feel comfortable going to that type of class on a Sunday morning.

    Sharon – you said: She was very pleased at first – but finds her daughter too wrapped up in personalities within the group. She said there are some strong personalities that lay guilt trips on her daughter and it concerned her. Run away! Run far far away! Unfortunately, I think that is a bit too common in the NKT. A sort of fundamentalism and fanaticism is rewarded rather than discouraged. And that type of attitude and behavior can quickly poison an entire center.

    As for Anam Thubten, yup, that sounds just like him. I went to a day course with him and a couple of people had brought young boys with them – 3 total. While the parents sat there all blissed (or numbed) out, the children completely ran amok. Yet, Rimpoche never blinked an eye, and when one of the children came up to him during a break and handed him a flower, you could tell he had a genuine connection with children.

    If you are interested in starting a practice group, perhaps the folks at the Dharmata Foundation (www.dharmata.org) will help you. I know there are a lot of groups out there throughout the US who get together, practice and watch DVDs of Rimpoche’s teachings together. You should contact them and see if they can help you.

    Norsang – Welcome! It’s hard to decipher where to place the responsibility for the NKT’s problems. For a long time, in order to protect my pure view of Geshe-la and my teachers, I figured the problems were arising due to fanatical practitioners. But then in my own experience, I recognized there was a big problem with my teacher. And from lurking on the NKT Survivors forum since almost the beginning, I’m learning that the problems are not merely local or with a few teachers, but pretty endemic. So, then I have to ask myself “who is the NKT?” Is there some kind of inner core that are making bad decisions (the sexual cover-ups, the protests) or does it all come down to Geshe-la? And, for myself, the answer wasn’t pretty.

    As for the charge that the NKT is a cult? Well, I think you said it very well – I find that groups will implement such strategies naturally without any awareness or grand scheme. I think they appear because group think is part of our evolutionary instincts. This is just my opinion. So when a teacher or group is accused of such an agenda they will deny it. However, they may be manifesting all the techniques having never read about cult techniques and having no knowledge of them. I don’t think the NKT is organized well enough to be a true cult, but that doesn’t mean that the members do not engage in cultish behavior, and that that cultish behavior is encouraged and rewarded.

    Thank you for dropping by, Norsang. I appreciate your thoughts.

    Ron – You’re absolutely right that there are NKT centers and practitioners who really personify the Buddhist ideals. Some these practitioners and even teachers are still my friends (and one is a very regular commenter on this blog), so I am extremely hesitant to label the NKT a “cult” as many formers members now do. It may also be out of pride believing that I am too smart to fall into the arms of a cult.

    In some ways I guess I’m fortunate that I had that conflict with my teacher that essentially made the decision for me. My old center has since dissolved, and while there is another NKT center within a reasonable distance, there were many reasons why I wouldn’t want to get involved there. There is plenty of dharma out there, and I’m happy to say I’ve found some lovely options.

  22. Cult.

    That’s one of those words, innit?

    I think Norsang’s description (which you quoted) is right on the money in terms of some of my experiences in the NKT. But then there are those moments (quite frequent moments, actually) that open my eyes to something quite extraordinary.

    So…hey….cult is one of those words I take in my stride.

  23. a cult by any other name wood smell as sweeet?

    grope think seams an un avoid able symptom so long as there is groups to grope. if ya mix in a common berief system with a buncho sin seer aspirants then ya gots the making of all kinds a messes like : since we all believe in loven others then we should always be ‘nice’ (aka not tell the truth)

    the NKT is a multifaceted strange lee conglomerated amalgum of peoples places things that defrys every blanket die scription eye’ve evah seen positive negative or neutered.

    the biggest problem wit organized religion is they aint two good at neither. Spiritual Guide takes the forms that fits the stew dents karma. When it goes the udder way around sum body is milkinit.

  24. It’s a shame – the same old empty accusations of the NKT as a cult but as usual, no evidence. Anyone can use the word ‘cult’ but you don’t know how much damage you are doing. NKT is not for everyone because it depends on what you want and what your karma is, but just because it’s not for you, please don’t disparage a Mahayana Buddhist tradition – it’s not good for you and not good for others to read this and believe it without justification.

  25. Manjushri’s Sword – I’m sorry, but clearly you have not read these posts in their entirety. No one here has said that the NKT is a cult. We are discussing, based on our personal experiences, why it may be accused of being a cult.

    While I welcome all opinions, please do me the favor of reading the actual content rather than just looking for keywords and defending allegations that were never made here in this forum by this author.

  26. Clearly, cult is a word that is mostly used in an insulting, negative and alarmist way.

    English seems inadequate here. There is no suitable synonym for ‘cult’ or ‘sect’ that doesn’t have negative connotations. And the recently-created term ‘New Religious Movement’ smells like a euphemism.

    Even organisations like the Salvation Army could be described as ‘cults’. And in fact, when you get to know them, the ‘Sallies’ share a lot of the dynamics and characteristics of groups like the NKT. I do some work with them and am amazed sometimes at the correlations and similarities. But of course people are generally very positively disposed towards the SA.

    Anyway, cult is a great smear word and it’s being effectively used against the NKT. I know the Dalai Lama has called Shugdenites a ‘cult’ (or did he say that about the NKT?) Statements like this give the allegation a lot of force.

    Unfortunately, there is no effective defense against a word like that. It’s a form of character assassination.

    It seems unfotunate that there is no word to distinquish groups like the NKT from much more extreme and dangerous cult-like organisations.

    Of course, I know that you understand this LB, and I’m sure that’s why you don’t use that word in your outlines of the NKT.

    I think NKTers are very sensitive to this word.

  27. Generally speaking, religious groups that engage in practices that are physically or psychologically dangerous to their adherents are termed “cults”.

    The negative effects of Gyalpos in general are described in many Tibetan medical and astrological texts. Even so called “tame” gyalpos like Pehar and Setrap have negative aspects and have to be continually reminded of their samayas over and over again.

    Dolgyal is a very dangerous practice with very wide-ranging pernicious effects. All one has to do is study the history of this practice to ascertain that this is so. Everyone by now knows about Zemey’s Yellow Book and Kalsang Gyatso’s disingenuous attempts to downplay the record of Trijiang’ Rinpoche’s history of punishment meted out by Shugden to high Lamas and officials in the Tibetan government who did not toe the fundamentalist Gelugpa line.

    People wonder why Shugden keeps coming back after he is “destroyed”– the reason is that people continue to make offerings to Dogyal and recite his supplications. Spirits like Shugden that are fed offerings grow stronger, since they thrive on propitiation.

    Praises and offering prayers are like crack and heroin for arrogant spirits like Dolgyal, especially when made by powerful yogins who can manifest offerings through the power of their visualizations. And is it well known that Dolgyal often punishes those who discontinue his practice.

    Why is Dolgyal practice singled out? Because there is dispute only about Dolgyal’s status. While some people erroneously claim that Sakyapas regarded Dolgyal as a wisdom protector, this is total misconception. Sakyapas always regarded Dolgyal as a worldly protector, as the junior members of the rgyal po gsum ie. the Three Kings, Pehar, Setrab, and Shugden.

    By maintaining that Dolgyal as a wisdom protector, or as a Buddha, the Shugden cult destroys Buddhism from within. Because this practice is so mistaken, so pernicious and so harmful, not only to Buddhism, but the world at large, we consider those who give their devotion to Shugden to be deluded members of a cult, worshippers of a destructive non-buddhist religion.

    N

  28. Hi Ron:

    Then you disbelieve a great deal of the content of the tantras in general. When for example, we have offerings to bhutas, kinnaras, apsaras, nagas, mahoragas, and so on, these are all various kinds of spirits identified in the Indian Buddhist tantras which can cause harm to sentient beings.

    It seems to a little strange to me that someone will cherry pick Tibetan Buddhism, accepting what is convenient, and rejecting whatever isn’t, even when they come from the very same text.

    This is actually part of the problem– many people in NKT simple have no basis for understanding what a practice like Shugden is about. And the propaganda around Shugden from the NKT side is carefully crafted to dismiss whole cultural context of Shugden practice. In some sense, this is a worse fabrication than the belief that Shugden is some Manjushri emanation.

    You may not believe in spirit provocations, but you obviously believe in the bardo and rebirth. Well, basically speaking, spirits like Shugden are beings that do not leave the bardo. We use the term “spirit”, but this is not really accurate– Shugden is sentient being, more or less a very powerful preta. In fact, that is what most of the worldly protectors of Tibetan Buddhism are i.e. powerful pretas. One of the ancient Indian names for Tibet was “Pretapuri” i.e. City of Pretas, which came from the Indian recognition that Tibetans used to worship many pretas as gods.

    The examples of pretas in Buddhist literature are manifold. You find them all over the sutras, as well as types of gods such as Brahma, Indra, the four Directional Kings, and these last mentioned have been worldly protectors of Buddhism since the beginning– they are mentioned in the Pali canon as such.

    So it is a little strange to put your faith in Indian Tantric Buddhism, and yet dismiss out of hand a very large and important feature of Indian tantric Buddhism, i.e. controlling and dispelling various kinds of spirits that cause illness and insanity.

    N

  29. Why is that strange?

    Accepting everything unconditionally seems like a very uncritical way of thinking.

    I haven’t had to do that with anything else in my life. So why should I start doing that with Indian Tantric Buddhism?

    This is quite normal in the west. We aren’t conditioned to buy the whole package. Even many christians selectively choose to suspend their disbelief on angels, devils, talking snakes and burning bushes.

    I accept most of buddhism on the basis of beneficial belief. But some of this stuff is just not beneficial for me to believe.

  30. Hi Ron:

    “Accepting everything unconditionally seems like a very uncritical way of thinking.

    I haven’t had to do that with anything else in my life. So why should I start doing that with Indian Tantric Buddhism?”

    You shouldn’t. On the other hand, it also seems to me that you are accepting some things on faith, and rejecting other things (claiming rationality) in a completely arbitrary fashion. For example, you accept the efficacy of Vajrayogini practice and the usefulness of the Cittipati protectors (who are worldly protectors also, incidentally), and yet on the other hand, reject the milieu and cultural context of the origin of Shugden practice completely uncritically.

    Your reasoning amounts to this: “There are no spirits, therefore, if Shugden is a spirit, he does not exist. If Shugden does not exist, what’s the issue?”

    Well, the issue is as follows: whether Shugden exists or not is somewhat irrelevant to the assertions of HHDL. What HHDL is asserting is that because of the cultural context of the origin of Shugden practice, paying homage to Shugden as a Buddha is inappropriate and wrong. Also God does not exist from a Buddhist point of view. This does not mean however it is suitable or appropriate for a Buddhist to worship God as a Buddha. The point you and most of the other NKT people fail to understand is the actual history of the this practice, the context of this practice, and so on. Adherents of Shugden hold up Trijiang’s book defending as some definitive proof– but it is really just a polemical tract. The scholarship in his text is subpar by western academic standards. He cites as facts texts for which there are no originals, claiming the Fifth fabricated a Shugden statue with “his own hands” and so on, claiming Morchen spread Shugden practice widely (when in fact there but a single short note in Morchen’s autobiography about Shugden), asserting that great Sakya masters held Shugden to be awakened, when the opposite is a fact– making claim after unsubstantiated claim. And yet we have western students, completely uneducated in Tibetan language and culture, holding up this text as a beacon of truth. It is really sad.

    I guess what I am saying is that your reticence to perceive that the practice of Shugden is a cult is based on your irrational attachment to western rationalism and an unwillingness to really understand Indo-Tibetan Buddhism in terms of the culture/s that spawned it.

    Finally, we are Buddhists, we do not take as our example the practices and biases of Christians– because if we do, we are doomed.

    N

  31. “Finally, we are Buddhists, we do not take as our example the practices and biases of Christians– because if we do, we are doomed. ”

    -Funny, I heard Christians say the same thing about Buddhists.

  32. Hi Namdrol

    I guess I am attached to western rationalism. This has its drawbacks, but it also has its advantages. For one thing, it’s easy to step back and take a look at this absurd conflict for what it is.

    I am not unwilling to “understand Indo-Tibetan Buddhism in terms of the culture that spawned it”. I am learning about the culture and the context of these practices – not at a rapid pace, but as and when I can. Still, I don’t feel the need to transplant the entire Indo-Tibetan world view into my world, which is quite different. Though I am quite happy to continue reading about that world view when the opportunity arises.

    So…as I go along I am discovering the Tibetan context, and it is a very quaint cosmology, just like some of the other mythological systems I’ve come across. I have been a great student of Babylonian and other ancient near eastern mystery cults, and they are no less magical or compelling than the Tibetan ones. What they don’t give me, however, are practical and implementable practices that make my life better. Which is why I’ve accept Indian Tantric Buddhism.

    Again, it’s a matter of beneficial belief.

  33. Namdrol-
    Thank you for your information about the Shugden practice. Your post is very informative.
    An interesting and fair book about Buddhism and certain practices being used in a cult like fashion is a book called ” The Buddha from Brooklyn ” by Martha Sherrill. It is about Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo ( aka Cathrine Burroughs ) It is a very honest account of how Buddhism and certain beliefs / practices were used to manipulate a Sangha.
    I don’t know too much about NTK- but I imagine some that were involved it may identify with this book. When I was young I dated a cult leaders son from California. I saw first hand how sincere people were totally misguided by a cult of personality. This book is interesting because the author is not anti Buddhist in any way… I think she was almost shocked that the book turned out differently than she thought it would She starts out enamored by the group. .It seems the reality of this story was a struggle for her to write. She was just put in a position to report the truth of what was going on in this group. She ends up taking refuge in the end ( hopefully she is with another Sanga.. I get the feeling she is . ) Here is a link to the book: http://www.amazon.com/Buddha-Brooklyn-Tale-Spiritual-Seduction/dp/0375726489

  34. Do we all need to be prolific in Tibetan language and culture to understand what is what when it comes to human rights?

    If the whole affair gets properly investigated and the whole thing turns out to be a ridiculous machination of the WSS (who turned out to be a weapon of the Chinese), then perhaps i will study Tibetan and look into the history of Shugden. In the meantime, i find the claims that he harms the DL and the cause of Tibet a bit cryptic. And in any case, if they were true i doubt a realized Buddhist master would take the same course of action (the ban). If he is realized and doing the right thing then thats great because he will show us a clear way of overcoming the obstacles to Buddhadharma in the world.

    We are so lucky to have Dharma. Sometimes i don’t understand why we can’t all just get along with it and enjoy what we have… sigh…

  35. Hi Ron:

    “I have been a great student of Babylonian and other ancient near eastern mystery cults, and they are no less magical or compelling than the Tibetan ones. What they don’t give me, however, are practical and implementable practices that make my life better.”

    Ron:

    Do you believe in rebirth?

    Sharon:

    You’re welcome. The Shugden issue complex, and as a piece of history, very interesting. It will make a very interesting book someday.

    Harry:

    “We are so lucky to have Dharma. Sometimes i don’t understand why we can’t all just get along with it and enjoy what we have…”

    Because Shugden practice is not Dharma, but the opposite.

    N

  36. “Funny, I heard Christians say the same thing about Buddhists.”

    it’s true: if Christians adopt Buddhist practices and so on, they will not be Christians for very long.

    N

  37. Why become engrossed in trying to figure out history when history is such a relative, slippery kettle of fish? Is there much solidity of fact that we can retrieve from the past? I think it would be more sensible to test something on the basis of the present moment. In that way we can get a much more tangible grasp of our object of investigation.

    Some believe Jesus Christ had children, some believe he didn’t. I think there is even written history that proves both views. But the only person who can really know what really happened is Jesus himself 2000 long years ago (unless in his present state he can remember :). So why waste time getting heated about it?

    I think the only way to find out for oneself if Shugden is a spirit or a enlightened being is to test him by oneself.

    Peace.

    Some quotes on history:

    To know the truth of history is to realize its ultimate myth and its inevitable ambiguity.
    Roy P. Basler

    History consists of a series of accumulated imaginative inventions.
    Voltaire

    Imagination plays too important a role in the writing of history, and what is imagination but the projection of the author’s personality.
    Pieter Geyl

    God alone knows the future, but only an historian can alter the .past.
    Ambrose Bierce

    The certainty of history seems to be in direct inverse ratio to what we know about it.
    Anonymous

    The past does not influence me; I influence it.
    Willem De Kooning

    History is the distillation of rumour.
    Thomas Carlyle

  38. Hi Harry:

    “I’m Buddhist and have faith in JC and i luurve Francis of Asisi, does that invalidate my Buddhist practice?”

    If you take Jesus as a valid refuge, then yes it does.

    “I think the only way to find out for oneself if Shugden is a spirit or a enlightened being is to test him by oneself.”

    This amounts to saying that the only one can be sure a fatal poison is fatal is to swallow it and see if one dies as a result.

  39. Harry:

    “Why become engrossed in trying to figure out history when history is such a relative, slippery kettle of fish? Is there much solidity of fact that we can retrieve from the past? I think it would be more sensible to test something on the basis of the present moment. In that way we can get a much more tangible grasp of our object of investigation.”

    One cannot test anything on the basis of the present moment if one is not informed about it’s past.

    There are only two ways to ascertain that validity of Shugden practice. One is through an objective examination of the records about this practice that have been left by Sakya and Geluga lamas over the past three hundred or so years.

    The second way is to rely on a contemporary authority figure who asserts positive or negative things about the practice.

    Of these two modes, the first is preferable and more objective that the latter. The latter boils down simply to who one asserts is an authority, and in the end, that is a subjective opinion. I.e. the tiger vouches for the lion; the yak for the tiger; the sheep for the yak; the dog for the sheep; the mouse for the dog; the flea for the mouse. So in the end one’s chain of authority for a lion rests upon the opinion of a flea.

    So, I prefer to put my trust in the verifiable accounts of past Lamas such as the great fifth and so on. You may do as you please.

    N

  40. “This amounts to saying that the only one can be sure a fatal poison is fatal is to swallow it and see if one dies as a result.”

    Oh i’m sure just a little taste won’t kill you. The nicotine poison content of one cigarette can inmeadiately kill you if you inject it into your blood. Most of us who have smoked or still do, receive harmful effects that alert us to the nature of this poison, allowing us to quit if we wish.

    Anyway there are other ways to test a poison for oneself without swallowing it. Highly numerous i would imagine.

  41. Indeed, which brings me back to the beginning.

    How reliable is history?

    This is my question to myself and to others.

    “One cannot test anything on the basis of the present moment if one is not informed about it’s past.”

    In a sense this seems very logical to me. But then i would also ask: does one need to be informed about the past of a book to know if it’s going to be good? Wouldn’t it be more simple to read it? Does one “need” to check upon the past of a car to know if it’s a good vehicle? Does one need to investigate the past of one’s mother to decide if she is a good parent? Etc… Maybe i’m missing something in your reasoning.

    “There are only two ways to ascertain that validity of Shugden practice. One is through an objective examination of the records about this practice that have been left by Sakya and Geluga lamas over the past three hundred or so years.

    The second way is to rely on a contemporary authority figure who asserts positive or negative things about the practice.”

    Would you not consider adding a third way which would be personal experience of the practice/deity?

    “Of these two modes, the first is preferable and more objective that the latter. The latter boils down simply to who one asserts is an authority, and in the end, that is a subjective opinion.”

    Why is the first preferable to the latter? There are different accounts from different Lamas, which are we to believe? Like the latter the first also boils down to whose accounts you believe. The problem with the first is that only texts remain to offer insight. The benefit of the second way is that you can directly talk to your source; ask, talk, debate so as to come to a balanced understanding.

  42. As to your first point: there are many books which are not based on sound sources, well researched data and so on.

    In terms of practice, the lineage is the most important thing. For example, we know for a fact that Vajrayogini comes from an unbroken lineage from Naropa. We all agree that Naropa was a Mahasiddha. We all accept that practices verified to come from Naropa are valid. Why? Because we have a detailed record of Sachen, who received this from Mal Lotsawa, which received it in Nepal from the Phaimthing Brothers, who received it from Naropa. We also know that Naropa passed on other valid lineages, and was one of Atisha’s masters at Vikramashila.

    But in the case of Shugden, we do not know where the Gelugpa version of this practice really came from. We have some late eighteenth century tormas offerings written not by Tibetans, but Mongolian Geshes; negative reports about Shugden and a refutation of the claim that Tulku Dragpa Gyaltsen was a Manjushri emanation from the famous Tibetan Gelug lamas like Ngulchu Dharmabhadra (one of the most prominent Gelug masters in the Gelug Vajrayogini lineage); voluminous writings by the 5th Dalai Lama on the pernicious nature of Dolgyal. But after his death in 1682 we don’t hear a peep about Shugden from anyone until Morchen, who confines his comment about Shugden to a single line in an autobiography of several hundred pages. The next solid evidence we have of Shugden is a mention of a torma offering written to Shugden by Sonam Rinchen somewhere between 1724 and 1740. The earliest non-Sakya texts all date from a period after this this and all of them penned by Mongolian Lamas. After the rise of the Qing Dynasty, the fortunes of Mongolian Gelug Lamas rose quickly mostly due to their proximity with the Manchus, and their influence in Lhasa correspondingly became pronounced. By the end of the nineteenth century, we see a sudden rise in prominence of this practice– where it starts to become widespread in Central Tibet, as well as Mongolia.

    So the question becomes, what were the circumstances that actually lead to the adoption of this practice in Gelug. Apart from Pabhongkha and his teacher, what is the lineage of this practice and so on. There are many questions that are either ignored, or glossed over with assertions about a small text supposedly written by the Fifth on the back of a statue which does not appear in his collected works, and which totally contradicts his writings about Shugden in his collected works. If the practice was so widespread in Tibet, how come the only lineage that presently exists for in Tibet it comes through Pabhongkha (who had Mongolian teachers)? How come it is much more widespread in Mongolia than it ever was in Tibet?

    There is no satisfactory account of the origin of this deity outside of Sakya. There is no satisfactory account of this deity being elevated to the status of a Manjushri emanation (though we know that this attribution was rejected by Dharmabhadra in the early nineteenth century). In short, this practice does not seem have a valid lineage in Gelug.

    So you see, when put to the test of scholarship, the scholarship of the pro-Shugden people is found wanting. We are all expected to accept all the assertions of Trijiang Rinpoche merely because he said so. But we are expected to ignore Zemey’s record of Trijiang’s stories of Shugden because it is inconvenient to the story NKT and others want to present of Shugden. Moreover, as I pointed out to Ron, you folks are woefully ill-informed about Tibetan history and so on, and so you just blindly accept what you are told about Shugden.

    As far as your third option goes, I don’t think that this is a good solution. This is the solution drug dealers use with their new clients. “Try it, you’ll see; your life will get better, things will look up for you, your obstacles will vanish…” No has ever denied that those who do Shugden practice usually receive immediate worldly benefits– its the price they pay later on in this life and the next that that is the problem. So no thanks, I would avoid Shugden practice just like I would avoid crack or crystal meth.

    N

  43. Namdrol,

    Reply to your first 5 paragraphs:

    I am ignorant of Tibetan language history and culture so i have to either learn all of these or decide if i can trust you on this one. And to decide on this it comes down to lineage, like you rightly say. I have my own lineage and Lama and i trust them. Here i have your lineage and that is what i question. I am prepared to believe that your information may be accurate. However, you yourself have admitted (in more or less words) that you wish to turn people away from Kelsang Gyatso, the NKT and from Shugden, and because they are my family who you try to turn people against upon reasons i sincerely don’t agree with, i doubt i can trust your words. How can i know your true motivation? Is your lineage a worldly one of destroying spiritual traditions, or is it a pure lineage which is trying to protect the world from spirits? Since i do not know of a Buddhist practice which entails destroying others faith, for now i have made up my mind.

    6th paragraph:

    Dunno, i’m tired… Lineage again i suppose? Don’t you lot expect us to accept what Zemey’s words just because he said so? Whilst ignoring Trijangs words because it is convenient for the Dalai Lama? I think we all should try and become a bit less biased really if any peace is to rest upon our minds. Anti-Shugden, pro-Shugden, we need some equanimity, ey?

    Last paragraph:

    I’m not saying one needs to start practicing Shugden in order to check him out. You don’t need to convert. I have checked a few different Buddhist authors like Nhat Hahn and Lama Yeshe and haven’t had to convert to their traditions to come to my own conclusion that they’re good guys. And lastly, what are these worldly benefits that you speak of? Personally i have no more wealth or status or reputation than when i began to rely upon DS. Five years ago when i met my tradition i was in a right mess. I had being struggling with depression and a few other things like anxiety and social phobia for years. Because of my bad habits, i am not a good meditator, i don’t study much, and i’m not exactly prolific with my vows and commitments. The only thing i’ve been more or less consistent with is Heart Jewel practice (which contains DS sadhana) and this is not because of a fervorous devotion to my protector but because HJ is very accessible when you live in an NKT centre and because there is no official commitment to turn up (suited me fine). Now, i’m not on top of the world, confident and self-assured, i’m still quite shy and i still occasionally struggle with depression. On the other hand i have found myself gradually more and more peaceful. It seems my virtues and my spiritual life is on the increase, if ever so slightly. So from my own experience i can only assume that DS isn’t harmful. Quite contrarily, i believe he’s helping me out. In spiritual terms, not worldly ones. As our protector he is supposed to give us the right conditions for our spiritual development even if that entails a worsening of our worldly situation. And that is what we ask him to do. I personally know people who have asked him to boost them on their paths, and have found themselves faced by a sudden host of external challenges. I myself once, under the influence of attachment realized i was about to do something quite naughty, so i asked him to shake me up… boy did i get a shaking! The results were: my ego received a good old battering, which sent me packing with my tail between my legs (no pun intended), and i learned an essential lesson on the downfalls of sexual misconduct. Worldly benefits: well i didn’t exactly get what i wanted did i? Those were the days when i was younger and enthusiastic newbie, i don’t think i’m so brave these days. Anyway sorry for babble, hope this is useful to someone.

  44. Hi Ron:

    If you believe in rebirth, and you believe in the bardo, you have no reason to disbelieve the existence of so called formless spirits like Shugden and Pehar and the rest. They do not really have the forms as depicted in their paintings and so on. For example, Gyalpo spirits have been depicted in the form you see Shugden in for a thousand years in Tibetan medical literature i.e. as a Buddhist monk wearing the characteristic yellow hat one sees on Shugden and many other Gyalpo class spirits. In general, Gyalpo spirits are considered to be the bardo emanations of powerful yogin monks that came under the power of anger when they died. You can see this particularly apt when considering the death of Dragpa Gyaltsen. There are many examples of monks being killed and so on who then arose as Gyalpos who were then tamed, and given an area to guard. For example, Shugden was given the job of guarding the Sakya monastery specifically by Sonam Rinchen. But you don’t command wisdom protectors to guard monastery compounds and so forth. This is low level bodyguard work for minor worldly protectors, as Shugden is.

    I guess my main point, Ron, is that you already accept all the necessary things needed to also accept what is meant by a “spirit” in the Buddhist context. So if you do not believe in gdon, negative spirits, it is only because you choose to ignore the fact that such a belief is predicated on the very things you already accept i.e. rebirth and the bardo. Spirits like Shugden are beings that discover and revel in the imagined freedom of staying in a bardo-like existence. They are considered pretas because they are driven by strong afflictions. Some of them can be quite spiritually advanced in worldly terms– but none of them are off the wheel of samsara; unlike wisdom protectors like Mahakala, etc.

    Harry:

    The Buddha himself had no problem destroying the faith of non-Buddhists in their erroneous beliefs. Likewise, when erroneous beliefs like “Shugden is Buddha Manjsuhri” invade Buddhism, I have no problem destroying the false faith of those that put their trust in a false belief.

    Your reasons for practicing Shugden are very poor, Harry. You would be better off practicing something else. You will find out someday that you have been sold a bill of goods. Sadly when that happens, for you it will be too late.

    N

  45. Buddha taught Dharma. He did not spend his energies slandering others beliefs like you do. He spoke truth and the false beliefs of those that listened were dispelled.

    Increased inner peace a poor reason? Only if you say so, Namdrol.

    Come on, at least give me some good debate. Give me something that will help me understand your pov.

  46. Hi Harry:

    “He spoke truth and the false beliefs of those that listened were dispelled.”

    You need to read some sutras, Harry. It just was not like that. There were plenty of people that left the Buddha’s teachings unconvinced for one reason or another.

    “Increased inner peace a poor reason? Only if you say so, Namdrol”

    I am quite sure that Hindus, Muslims, Christians and all others who practice religions that are predicated on wrong views also experience increased inner peace through practicing their religion.

    We have a higher standard in Buddhism.

    N

  47. Okay

    At the moment, it’s off my believability scale. It’s not real to me. However, thanks for giving me this information. I appreciate the effort taken.

    I don’t practice Shugden and am currently not attending any NKT classes, so I guess I’m out of immediate danger anyway.

    Ron

  48. Hi Ron:

    “At the moment, it’s off my believability scale. It’s not real to me. However, thanks for giving me this information. I appreciate the effort taken.”

    The main point is that you understand that there is a reasonable basis for these things which are in fact predicated on sound Buddhist principles of the mind. You might do well to examine the Pettavatthu in the Pali canon, where accounts of various types of pretas, both harmful and non-harmful, are recounted by the Buddha.

  49. Incidentally, I forgot to mention– when you study the bardo, you will discover that when in the bardo, we will have nine times more clarity and mental power than we do when they are embodied in physical form. This is why, sometimes, very powerful yogis wind up “stuck” in the bardo as “spirits” who then manifest to other yogins (hopefully truly realized) and are bound as protectors. You should really give “Oracles and Demons of Tibet” a read. It is informative.

  50. Namdrol:

    Did Buddha yell at those ignorant people threatening them to give up their beliefs or else they would wind up in the deepest hells? Did he go round their towns with the sole purpose of stripping them from their faiths? Of course some people left his teachings unconvinced, perhaps they didn’t have the karma with him right then. Was Buddha himself not aware of peoples individual karma?

    Who are you to say other wise men and religions in the world have predicated wrong views? Are JC’s teachings on love and karma wrong views? I could go on and on about all the different ones… I guess it depends of one’s stance on wrong view.

    Besides inner peace is not my only reason. I’m not sure you are aware of my reasons for practicing DS, i have many but i somehow doubt i wouldn’t be wasting my words explaining. I’m pretty sure if you were in my shoes you would feel the same about DS.

    And for the umpteenth time, no i don’t think i personally “need” to read some sutras. That it’s part of your path to enlightenment to read sutras doesn’t mean it is everyone else’s. Actually, why don’t you tell me the name of some sutras in which you’re activity is backed by the Buddha, perhaps sometime i will check them out.

  51. Harry:

    The Great Sakya Pandita said:

    “If one has gone for refuge to the Buddha, do not take
    other gods as a teacher. If one has gone for refuge to the Dharma, do not make non-Dharma into one’s path. If one has gone for refuge to the Sangha, do not hold non-Sangha as companions or as objects of veneration.”

    Sakya Pandita refuted many opinions and mistaken practices in Tibetan Buddhism of his day and I am sure that because of this, the feelings of many people were offended and continue to be offended.

    Also Pabhongkha, he too told asserted in his collected works that people were going to fall into lower realms from following the views of Sakya, Kagyu and Nyingma.

    So you see, there is really nothing terrible or shocking about such assertions– Tibetan scholars make them all the time.

    However, the fact is that taking Shugden to be a Buddha completely breaks ones refuge. Basically, it is nothing more than voodoo.

    N

  52. Namdrol,

    I agree with you. But one thing is to express these ideas to your own students, and speaking within reasonable contexts. Buddha, Sakya Pandita and others were enlightened masters who had true wisdom. Another thing is to run around town with a megaphone denouncing what we may think are people’s false beliefs, i think we call this preaching. I don’t think the point is wether we are right or wrong about the beliefs, it’s simply immoral to do that. Why? Because we are destroying people’s faith in what we can’t know for sure is right or wrong (unless you are omniscient of course, or unless you can perceive the being DS). Even if you are right and DS is a spirit, the NKT has many other good things on offer. No tradition is perfect and i’m sure false beliefs are common in all of them. It’s a bit weird to try and destroy a tradition because we don’t like an aspect of it.

  53. Hi Harry:

    I am not trying to destroy a tradition.

    I am criticizing Shugden practice because it is not a Buddhist tradition that way it is practiced you and others.

    It is fine to destroy people’s faith in false beliefs. In fact, the tantras tell us to do so. And I know for sure that your faith in Shugden is faith in a lie.

    As far as other things go, food mixed with poison is poisoned food. No one with any sense will eat it, no matter how good it may smell, look or taste.

    N

  54. Hey Namdrol:

    “I am not trying to destroy a tradition.”

    I’m sorry, i understood this was your aim concerning NKT.

    I agree it is fine to destroy others false faith, i already agreed with you before. What i don’t get is your method, and you haven’t really given me a valid answer on that one.

    “As far as other things go, food mixed with poison is poisoned food. No one with any sense will eat it, no matter how good it may smell, look or taste.”

    So are you saying Kelsang Gyatso doesn’t have any sense? He manages to have a clear and profound grasp of Buddhas teachings but he can’t tell the difference between and spirit and a protector? I mean to be honest i don’t claim to know that KG is right and that you are wrong, but i think him and DS deserve at least some benefit of doubt.

    It seems the difference between me and you, Namdrol, is that you claim to know truth whereas i am just trying to discover it. I stand up to my errors, and i admit that i get carried away with my own biases. After years of spending time with Shugden i can’t say that i know his true nature, but you after reading some texts say you know truth about DS. There are only two types of people who claim to know truth that i am aware of: enlightened ones like the Buddha, and confused ones, like most i would imagine.

  55. Hi Harry:

    ” I’m sorry, i understood this was your aim concerning NKT.”

    You are wrong. My aim is to refute Shugden practice.

    “So are you saying Kelsang Gyatso doesn’t have any sense? He manages to have a clear and profound grasp of Buddhas teachings but he can’t tell the difference between and spirit and a protector? I mean to be honest i don’t claim to know that KG is right and that you are wrong, but i think him and DS deserve at least some benefit of doubt.”

    I think, for Kalsang Gyatso, it is a family issue. He is the nephew of one of the Shugden oracles, he was raised in in this tradition, in much the same way Pabhongkha was raised in it, it was a practice he was exposed to from childhood. I don’t think he is capable of being objective about Shugden.

    As far as his having a clear and profound grasp of Dharma– I am not inclined to agree with you. He has a Gelug education, so he knows how to dance on books very well. But his fabricating the NKT “ordination”, his uncalled-for criticism of Ch. Namkhai Norbu in the Venezuelan press a number of years ago, his clear lack of judgment indicated by his picking two successors in a row that were involved in ugly sex scandals, as well as his trenchant and persistent rebellion against His Holiness, The Dalai Lama, all indicate to me a man who afflicted by severe pride and attachment, and who lacks any sense at all.

    Since I am a Sakya, I have no need to give Kalsang Gyatso benefit of the doubt– this practice started in my school, and frankly, we know more about the nature of this being than anyone else. And when we tell you that Shugden is a worldly being, then you ought to pay attention. The present Sakya Trizen ( the direct descendent of the two Sakya Trizens (father and son) who first introduced torma offerings to this being in the eighteenth century and placed Shugden under the control of Caturmukha Mahakala) asserts that there never ever was any kind of empowerment for this practice– since such low level protectors need no empowerments. HHST also is adamant that Shugden is a worldly protector. Because of the problems around this deity, and out of respect for the Dalai Lama, and because in fact the practice of this deity was largely confined to the ‘Khon family anyway, Shugden is no longer practiced in Sakya at all in any form.

    The very fact that some geshe in Gelug first wrote an empowerment for this practice in the nineteenth century indicates his serious lack of understanding about the nature of worldly protectors. It is even more complicated by the fact that Pabhongkha, borrowing a Nyingma custom, wrote a life force entrustment for this practice. A life force entrustment is a type of initiation where you make a deal with a worldly deity. You are literally putting your life in the hands of these deities and in return, they will vigorously carry out your wishes as long as you continue to make regular offerings to them.

    “There are only two types of people who claim to know truth that i am aware of: enlightened ones like the Buddha, and confused ones, like most i would imagine.”

    This is false reasoning, Harry. There are two kinds of truth, Harry, one is conventional, the other is ultimate. Conventional truth is only deluded in the sense that it is contaminated with false imputations of “I, me mine”– it does not mean however that effective knowledge is impossible for ordinary people. Shugden practice is something relative, not ultimate.

    This issue can therefore be investigated with conventional means and reasonings, just like any other practice. The conventional means are: what tantra does it come from? What is its lineage? How many great masters verified this practice?

    The answer to these three questions in short order are: Shugden practice, unlike the Cittapattis and Dharmaraja, does not come from any valid tantra, it does not come from any tantra at all. Second, there is no lineage for Shugden practice earlier than or separate from the Sakya practice– it is indisputable that the mantra for Shugden was composed by Sachen Kunga Lodo and no one else. But there is no traceable lineage given in Gelug to the Sakya original– it looks like some Gelugpas took simply the torma offering written by Sachen, and then did whatever they liked with the practice.

    Finally, great masters in all four schools have declared this practice mistaken. Only a small number of lamas in Gelug have maintained that Shugden was a Manjushri emanation– and this contention is rejected by Ngulchu Dharmabhadra one of the greatest Gelug masters of the 19th century quite early on.

    Whether Shugden is a Buddha or not is not some ineffable fact. One can deduce whether or not Shugden is awakened by one: examining his history; two: by examining the incredible sectarian behavior that this practice is based on through its Gelug Mongolian roots. What you guys don’t realize is that Gelug take on this practice was born out of Mongolian Gelug conservatism.

    These things easily discernible by anyone who takes the time. But I have yet to see anyone from the NKT who is capable of writing anything about this that is not just pure NKT/WSS propaganda; I have yet to see a single NKT person who demonstrates even a hair of scholarship on these issues. NKT simply does not produced well educated scholars.

    N

  56. guess ya missed this one then eh?

    “There is absolutely no spirit that cannot be subdued by an attained master – if we believe there is [then what] we are saying is that demons are stronger than Buddhas! Confusion prevails over enlightenment, since when?…”

  57. One master might be able to control a given spirit– but that does not mean the same spirit cannot bring harm to others.

    As far as ordinary people go, confusion definitely prevails over enlightenment– otherwise, Shugden would have never been regarded as anything other than worldly protector.

    N

  58. Hi Namdrol,

    Thanks for your lengthy and informative post. You certainly do seem to have a lot of knowledge and i respect that.

    Again, I can’t really offer much opinion about all the history of DS that you expound. For me it’s all just hesaidthis-hesaidthat. I don’t see much benefit in examining all the different accusations of different lamas. KG, the DL, Namkhai Norbu, Pabongkha, the Sakya Trizens, they all teach Dharma. I’m sure they are all fantastic, and i’m sure they have all made mistakes and said inaccurate things. Who to believe?? That is why i personally opt to check Shugden in the now. Does he cause sectarian behaviour? Does he bestow worldly joys? Does he harm the DL and his cause? Is he destroying Buddhism in the world?
    To analyze him in this way seems to me more reliable than digging around in the graveyard of history.

    I agree that NKTers are not particularly scholarly, i don’t think we have ever claimed to be. In general i would say we tend to be more practical than scholarly. Perhaps we feel we know DS more personally so we don’t feel the urge to check his past. I certainly can’t see much sectarianism within the NKT, which i think says a lot considering i used to be very involved. I can’t stand the stuff (sectarianism) and i think i’m quite good at spotting it miles away. What i have seen a lot of is ignorance and grasping, just like everywhere else. This says even more because sectarianism is more likely to arise in the ignorant.

    “I think, for Kalsang Gyatso, it is a family issue. He is the nephew of one of the Shugden oracles, he was raised in in this tradition, in much the same way Pabhongkha was raised in it, it was a practice he was exposed to from childhood. I don’t think he is capable of being objective about Shugden.”

    He was raised in his tradition in the same way countless Lamas were raised in their respective traditions. Also you can push that cart both ways, you could say that being raised with something gives you a deeper insight. Poor reasoning if you ask me.

    “As far as his having a clear and profound grasp of Dharma– I am not inclined to agree with you. He has a Gelug education, so he knows how to dance on books very well. But his fabricating the NKT “ordination”, his uncalled-for criticism of Ch. Namkhai Norbu in the Venezuelan press a number of years ago, his clear lack of judgment indicated by his picking two successors in a row that were involved in ugly sex scandals, as well as his trenchant and persistent rebellion against His Holiness, The Dalai Lama, all indicate to me a man who afflicted by severe pride and attachment, and who lacks any sense at all.”

    He knows how to dance on books because he is gelug? How does a guy, a gelug, who suffers from “severe pride and attachment” and “has no sense at all” write 20 books explaining in a lucid, profound and clear way how to enter, make progress and complete the path to enlightenment? How does profound wisdom arise from such a mind? Ordination in NKT: This has been clearly explained and refuted. If you want we could discuss it separately. Criticism of Namkhai Norbu: I was not aware of this. Do you have a link so i can read? The Dalai Lama: if we want to go into that one i would also suggest another thread. Of the things you list that suggest KG has no sense whatsoever the only thing that really bears any weight is his picking of the two previous deputy directors. Of Thubten i know little as i wasn’t around at the time. I had the fortune of receiving many teachings from Samden though, and despite his mistakes i think he brought a lot to this tradition. I don’t think KG’s mistakes were related to who he picked but perhaps he wasn’t too quick to put Samden in his right place. Who knows, things seem to be going better in terms of correct reliance now, so maybe we needed that to happen in order to get here. I think in the past NKTers tended to idolize their teachers, this was very clear in the case of Samden. I’m not trying to say KG didn’t make any mistakes, at the end of the day i cannot know what he is thinking or forgetting to think about. I guess i’m just challenging the extreme view that he was wrong. I will also challenge the extreme view that he was right. So overall i’m not convinced by your reasons for saying KG lacks any sense.

    “Since I am a Sakya, I have no need to give Kalsang Gyatso benefit of the doubt– this practice started in my school, and frankly, we know more about the nature of this being than anyone else. And when we tell you that Shugden is a worldly being, then you ought to pay attention.”

    I don’t usually tend to listen when strangers talk down to me. Especially when i know that they know i don’t yet have much reason to trust them. Sorry, Namdrol, i’m not going to give up my practice just because you say i ought to.

    “This is false reasoning, Harry. There are two kinds of truth, Harry, one is conventional, the other is ultimate. Conventional truth is only deluded in the sense that it is contaminated with false imputations of “I, me mine”– it does not mean however that effective knowledge is impossible for ordinary people. Shugden practice is something relative, not ultimate.

    This issue can therefore be investigated with conventional means and reasonings, just like any other practice. The conventional means are: what tantra does it come from? What is its lineage? How many great masters verified this practice?

    The answer to these three questions in short order are: Shugden practice, unlike the Cittapattis and Dharmaraja, does not come from any valid tantra, it does not come from any tantra at all. Second, there is no lineage for Shugden practice earlier than or separate from the Sakya practice– it is indisputable that the mantra for Shugden was composed by Sachen Kunga Lodo and no one else. But there is no traceable lineage given in Gelug to the Sakya original– it looks like some Gelugpas took simply the torma offering written by Sachen, and then did whatever they liked with the practice.

    Finally, great masters in all four schools have declared this practice mistaken. Only a small number of lamas in Gelug have maintained that Shugden was a Manjushri emanation– and this contention is rejected by Ngulchu Dharmabhadra one of the greatest Gelug masters of the 19th century quite early on.”

    Here you provide some good material. Lacking knowledge of Tibetan history and traditional ways of checking a deity i can’t really refute. All i can say is that until we realize ultimate truth all we can do is speculate. That is why people who claim that their path is the only true one get labelled sectarian. So yeah, you can analyze in all the ways you want, and even if your analysis is quite good (like your one) you will never truly, really know the truth until you wake up from the dream and look Shugden in the face. Only the Buddhas can tell if DS is a Buddha himself or not. The rest of us have to try and guess. You use history, i check the present.

    “Whether Shugden is a Buddha or not is not some ineffable fact. One can deduce whether or not Shugden is awakened by one: examining his history; two: by examining the incredible sectarian behavior that this practice is based on”

    As i mentioned earlier there are other ways of checking. Show me the sectarian behavior that it causes. No, not anecdotes from the past. Present day examples.

    “These things easily discernible by anyone who takes the time. But I have yet to see anyone from the NKT who is capable of writing anything about this that is not just pure NKT/WSS propaganda; I have yet to see a single NKT person who demonstrates even a hair of scholarship on these issues. NKT simply does not produced well educated scholars.”

    Like i said before scholarship is not the only way around things. In fact it’s not in itself reliable if it isn’t backed by realization. There are many stories of practitioners that prove that one can attain deep realizations without studying much. So i believe it’s possible to understand the Shugden situation without studying Tibetan history and culture.

    Harry

  59. Hi Namdrol,

    Thanks for your lengthy and informative post. You certainly do seem to have a lot of knowledge and i respect that.

    Again, I can’t really offer much opinion about all the history of DS that you expound. For me it’s all just hesaidthis-hesaidthat. I don’t see much benefit in examining all the different accusations of different lamas. KG, the DL, Namkhai Norbu, Pabongkha, the Sakya Trizens, they all teach Dharma. I’m sure they are all fantastic, and i’m sure they have all made mistakes and said inaccurate things. Who to believe?? That is why i personally opt to check Shugden in the now. Does he cause sectarian behaviour? Does he bestow worldly joys? Does he harm the DL and his cause? Is he destroying Buddhism in the world?
    To analyze him in this way seems to me more reliable than digging around in the graveyard of history.

    I agree that NKTers are not particularly scholarly, i don’t think we have ever claimed to be. In general i would say we tend to be more practical than scholarly. Perhaps we feel we know DS more personally so we don’t feel the urge to check his past. I certainly can’t see much sectarianism within the NKT, which i think says a lot considering i used to be very involved. I can’t stand the stuff (sectarianism) and i think i’m quite good at spotting it miles away. What i have seen a lot of is ignorance and grasping, just like everywhere else. This says even more because sectarianism is more likely to arise in the ignorant.

    “I think, for Kalsang Gyatso, it is a family issue. He is the nephew of one of the Shugden oracles, he was raised in in this tradition, in much the same way Pabhongkha was raised in it, it was a practice he was exposed to from childhood. I don’t think he is capable of being objective about Shugden.”

    He was raised in his tradition in the same way countless Lamas were raised in their respective traditions. Also you can push that cart both ways, you could say that being raised with something gives you a deeper insight. Poor reasoning if you ask me.

    “As far as his having a clear and profound grasp of Dharma– I am not inclined to agree with you. He has a Gelug education, so he knows how to dance on books very well. But his fabricating the NKT “ordination”, his uncalled-for criticism of Ch. Namkhai Norbu in the Venezuelan press a number of years ago, his clear lack of judgment indicated by his picking two successors in a row that were involved in ugly sex scandals, as well as his trenchant and persistent rebellion against His Holiness, The Dalai Lama, all indicate to me a man who afflicted by severe pride and attachment, and who lacks any sense at all.”

    He knows how to dance on books because he is gelug? How does a guy, a gelug, who suffers from “severe pride and attachment” and “has no sense at all” write 20 books explaining in a lucid, profound and clear way how to enter, make progress and complete the path to enlightenment? How does profound wisdom arise from such a mind? Ordination in NKT: This has been clearly explained and refuted. If you want we could discuss it separately. Criticism of Namkhai Norbu: I was not aware of this. Do you have a link so i can read? The Dalai Lama: if we want to go into that one i would also suggest another thread. Of the things you list that suggest KG has no sense whatsoever the only thing that really bears any weight is his picking of the two previous deputy directors. Of Thubten i know little as i wasn’t around at the time. I had the fortune of receiving many teachings from Samden though, and despite his mistakes i think he brought a lot to this tradition. I don’t think KG’s mistakes were related to who he picked but perhaps he wasn’t too quick to put Samden in his right place. Who knows, things seem to be going better in terms of correct reliance now, so maybe we needed that to happen in order to get here. I think in the past NKTers tended to idolize their teachers, this was very clear in the case of Samden. I’m not trying to say KG didn’t make any mistakes, at the end of the day i cannot know what he is thinking or forgetting to think about. I guess i’m just challenging the extreme view that he was wrong. I will also challenge the extreme view that he was right. So overall i’m not convinced by your reasons for saying KG lacks any sense.

  60. “Since I am a Sakya, I have no need to give Kalsang Gyatso benefit of the doubt– this practice started in my school, and frankly, we know more about the nature of this being than anyone else. And when we tell you that Shugden is a worldly being, then you ought to pay attention.”

    I don’t usually tend to listen when strangers talk down to me. Especially when i know that they know i don’t yet have much reason to trust them. Sorry, Namdrol, i’m not going to give up my practice just because you say i ought to.

    “This is false reasoning, Harry. There are two kinds of truth, Harry, one is conventional, the other is ultimate. Conventional truth is only deluded in the sense that it is contaminated with false imputations of “I, me mine”– it does not mean however that effective knowledge is impossible for ordinary people. Shugden practice is something relative, not ultimate.

    This issue can therefore be investigated with conventional means and reasonings, just like any other practice. The conventional means are: what tantra does it come from? What is its lineage? How many great masters verified this practice?

    The answer to these three questions in short order are: Shugden practice, unlike the Cittapattis and Dharmaraja, does not come from any valid tantra, it does not come from any tantra at all. Second, there is no lineage for Shugden practice earlier than or separate from the Sakya practice– it is indisputable that the mantra for Shugden was composed by Sachen Kunga Lodo and no one else. But there is no traceable lineage given in Gelug to the Sakya original– it looks like some Gelugpas took simply the torma offering written by Sachen, and then did whatever they liked with the practice.

    Finally, great masters in all four schools have declared this practice mistaken. Only a small number of lamas in Gelug have maintained that Shugden was a Manjushri emanation– and this contention is rejected by Ngulchu Dharmabhadra one of the greatest Gelug masters of the 19th century quite early on.”

    Here you provide some good material. Lacking knowledge of Tibetan history and traditional ways of checking a deity i can’t really refute. All i can say is that until we realize ultimate truth all we can do is speculate. That is why people who claim that their path is the only true one get labelled sectarian. So yeah, you can analyze in all the ways you want, and even if your analysis is quite good (like your one) you will never truly, really know the truth until you wake up from the dream and look Shugden in the face. Only the Buddhas can tell if DS is a Buddha himself or not. The rest of us have to try and guess. You use history, i check the present.

    “Whether Shugden is a Buddha or not is not some ineffable fact. One can deduce whether or not Shugden is awakened by one: examining his history; two: by examining the incredible sectarian behavior that this practice is based on”

    As i mentioned earlier there are other ways of checking. Show me the sectarian behavior that it causes. No, not anecdotes from the past. Present day examples.

    “These things easily discernible by anyone who takes the time. But I have yet to see anyone from the NKT who is capable of writing anything about this that is not just pure NKT/WSS propaganda; I have yet to see a single NKT person who demonstrates even a hair of scholarship on these issues. NKT simply does not produced well educated scholars.”

    Like i said before scholarship is not the only way around things. In fact it’s not in itself reliable if it isn’t backed by realization. There are many stories of practitioners that prove that one can attain deep realizations without studying much. So i believe it’s possible to understand the Shugden situation without studying Tibetan history and culture.

    Harry

  61. Hi Harry:

    “He knows how to dance on books because he is gelug? How does a guy, a gelug, who suffers from “severe pride and attachment” and “has no sense at all” write 20 books explaining in a lucid, profound and clear way how to enter, make progress and complete the path to enlightenment? How does profound wisdom arise from such a mind?”

    Anyone can translate books out of Tibetan, if they know they language. Every single one of Kalsang Gyatso’s books are based on books composed by earlier Gelugpa scholars. His translations are mediocre in quality. And like most Tibetan scholars educated in the classical system, he does not feel any problem plagiarizing earlier scholars in his own lineage because this is the rule in Tibetan scholarship, not the exception. But you guys have no idea that this is what is happening, and so you guys think he just composed these books out of thin air and his own realizations. The idea that these book with his name on them arise from his mind is a laughable fantasy. Sadly, you guys do not actually study Tsongkhapa, even though you worship his name.

    “All i can say is that until we realize ultimate truth all we can do is speculate.”

    Nonsense, Harry– If we follow your reasoning, we cannot even infer the truth of Buddha’s teachings– so therefore, we ought to practice all religions in case we might pick the wrong one. Come on, Harry, get your head out of that pint.

    N

  62. Harry:

    “Ordination in NKT: This has been clearly explained and refuted. If you want we could discuss it separately.”

    The refutation provided by NKT is complete bollocks. NKT has abandoned the Buddha’s Vinaya and the 2500 year old tradition of monastic ordination. In short, NKT monks are not monks and do not have the right to wear the patched robe. Their so called ordination is a lie.

    One cannot simple make up ordinations as one likes. This sort of thing was strongly condemned by Sakya Pandita in his Three Vows.

    N

  63. Namdrol,

    I think you could do with calming down a bit. It’s quite hard to have a conversation with someone who appears so haughty and full of themselves, i don’t know if i have much patience left. If it upsets you that i don’t agree with you well… work it out yourself.

    Here i go again:

    “Anyone can translate books out of Tibetan, if they know they language.”

    I completely disagree. Translating Dharma texts is a profound activity of turning the wheel of Dharma, and i sincerely doubt that without fully understanding the true meaning of the text one can really convey it’s meaning to others. Especially in another language, in another culture. Especially Buddha’s unfathomably profound teachings. KG has not just translated the texts but adapted them in a way more comprehensible to the western mind (i suppose your going to say that this is heretical).

    “Every single one of Kalsang Gyatso’s books are based on books composed by earlier Gelugpa scholars.”

    We do know this, Namdrol.

    “His translations are mediocre in quality.”

    Your words on KG generally make me feel inclined to believe you hate him. On the grounds of delusion i cannot trust your judgement.

    “And like most Tibetan scholars educated in the classical system, he does not feel any problem plagiarizing earlier scholars in his own lineage because this is the rule in Tibetan scholarship, not the exception. But you guys have no idea that this is what is happening, and so you guys think he just composed these books out of thin air and his own realizations. The idea that these book with his name on them arise from his mind is a laughable fantasy.”

    You are wrong, Namdrol. We understand that KG’s books are based on the works of previous masters. We do believe he has a profound grasp of them however. The proof like i said earlier is his clarity. Also he always seems to show a living example of their meaning. Despite mistakes he may make as a human being.

    “Sadly, you guys do not actually study Tsongkhapa, even though you worship his name.”

    And i suppose although we daily pray to him to teach us his pure Dharma, he sends us a load of crap in the form of KG’s teachings? Typical of Tsongkhapa, eh?

    “Nonsense, Harry– If we follow your reasoning, we cannot even infer the truth of Buddha’s teachings– so therefore, we ought to practice all religions in case we might pick the wrong one. Come on, Harry, get your head out of that pint.”

    No Namdrol, that is not what i’m saying. Perhaps my explanation isn’t the most clear. What i’m saying is that inference isn’t really as reliable as direct perception. Until we perceive ultimate truth, we cannot really know what is real and what is not, even from the point of view of conventional truth. Even if your view is a correct one leading towards liberation. Of course, we can use our general understanding and knowledge to pick a tradition that we “feel” is right for us. It’s all we can do really, try and trust. I think that is why we use faith, because until we can see enlightened beings and worlds with our own eyes we need to believe that it is possible. For all i know, i could be wrong about NKT and you may be right, because (not perceiving ultimate truth) i cannot grasp it’s conventional nature. And the same goes for you and Shugden and KG. You can try and come to your own understanding of their natures, but until you know where your head and where your foot is you won’t really be able to know. You can only believe what your sources tell you. Again maybe i’m not incredibly clear, but i think my argument has at least some truth in it.

    “The refutation provided by NKT is complete bollocks. NKT has abandoned the Buddha’s Vinaya and the 2500 year old tradition of monastic ordination. In short, NKT monks are not monks and do not have the right to wear the patched robe. Their so called ordination is a lie.

    One cannot simple make up ordinations as one likes. This sort of thing was strongly condemned by Sakya Pandita in his Three Vows. ”

    Give me something that has a bit more meat on it please. Why don’t you refute the NKT’s refutation? Then we could debate it. Only if you want, mate :)

    Best,
    Harry

  64. Harry:

    “What i’m saying is that inference isn’t really as reliable as direct perception. Until we perceive ultimate truth, we cannot really know what is real and what is not, even from the point of view of conventional truth…

    For all i know, i could be wrong about NKT and you may be right, because (not perceiving ultimate truth) i cannot grasp it’s conventional nature.”

    This is the saddest thing I have yet see you right. You clearly do not understand the nature of direct perception and inference.

    Both are accepted as _valid_ forms of knowledge in Buddhism. An inference is a conceptual knowledge based upon a direct perception, which are the non-conceptual cognitions of healthy sense organs. Valid inferences don’t just arise out of thin air, Harry. The only school of logic that negates inference as a valid form of knowledge were the Indian materialists.

    There is a third type of valid knowledge, the testimony of reliable witnesses.

    Second, your claim “Until we perceive ultimate truth, we cannot really know what is real and what is not…” is a sad statement coming from a supposed follower of Tsongkhpa, who argued quite strongly that a proper conceptual (i.e. inferential) knowledge of emptiness sufficiently resembled the actual ultimate truth that it could be relied upon as valid knowledge.

    I am quite sure, Harry, that you are conventionally real, and that if you step in front of a lorry, we will be scraping you off the tarmac.

    N

  65. “I completely disagree. Translating Dharma texts is a profound activity of turning the wheel of Dharma, and i sincerely doubt that without fully understanding the true meaning of the text one can really convey it’s meaning to others.”

    Harry,

    I translate Tibetan texts all day along– it is what I do for a living. You have turned the activity of translation into some mystical fantasy. It simply nothing like that.

    Tibetan texts explain these things very clearly– the fact that Kalsang Gyatso has dumbed down a lot of things in his books does not mean he is a great genius.

    But for many people the act of translating is somehow a mystical job– of course you have to know the meaning of what you are translating, but you do not have to be a Buddha to make a solid, effective translation that conveys the meaning of a text. You just have to be a good scholar.

    N

  66. Addendum: for years I have observed that people with the least knowledge of Tibetan have the most opinions about translating Tibetan texts.

  67. Namdrol,

    About perception of truth:

    Ok so maybe i’m a bit fuddled up about conventional and ultimate truths. Perhaps i should refrain from playing with those terms, as it seems that i’m not very clued in about them. I’m sorry that right now i can’t really explain what i feel more clearly. I was trying to refer to something that i in my life has proven to be a useful tool in trying to understand the nature of an object or situation. In my defense i will say that the fact that i perhaps don’t have much knowledge of the intelectual aspect of reality doesn’t mean that i have no feeling for it whatsoever. Of course, some study would do me a lot of good.

    I think i’m starting to understand what you mean about inferences. You win this round, Namdrol. You’re luck is running out!

    Harry

  68. Namdrol,

    That you translate texts all day long doesn’t in itself say that much. Many people spend their lives teaching philosophy and turn out to be clueless. And no i don’t at all for one moment believe that scholarship is enough. If i am going to read a book on medicine i would much rather read the one written by the scholar who has practiced medicine for a good long time and has a experience on the subject. Having knowledge of Buddha’s words is of little value in comparison to having experience, as far as understanding the words goes. So most certainly give me a translator who has the experience over the one who doesn’t.

    What about the great translators? Were they great because of their profound comprehension and their ability to translate it, or were they great because they walked many miles? I have little doubt.

    And finally, your critique of KG’s works is quite bland. Earlier you used the word mediochre, and now you say he has “dumbed it down”. Isn’t that just a poor attempt to turn “simplified” into something a bit more condescending?

  69. These days Harry, there are no great Western translators like Vairocana, Rinchen Zangpo, or Drogmi.

    There is no merit to continuing the line of discussion, you are not qualified judge translations since you don’t know Tibetan.

    N

  70. Actually, I answered your questions. You know, the one’s with the ? mark.

    Sorry, but KG’s translations are slipshod and sloppy. But then, I am used reading translations by real scholars.

  71. Hi Namdrol,

    You still haven’t proven to me that it’s not possible to check Shugden in other ways, for example analazing the results of the practice of present day practitioners.

    You didn’t answer my question: why is it more reliable to rely on the accounts of previous Lamas than on present day ones? Which is what you said.

    You brush off my reasonings about translation with things like: great translators are a thing of the past and you’re not qualified to know anyway because you don’t know tibetan. So in particularly degenerate times proper translation skills are to be dispensed with? Anyone who knows a bit of Tibetan can write authoritative translations?

    And others i can’t really be bothered to go into. As far as i can see you have quite extreme views on NKT and KG and DS. Yes a lot of scholarly stuff but perhaps not so much insight. Extreme views and insight don’t go to church together. I suppose you would say that extreme views don’t affect scholars. Maybe i have some extreme views too, you kindly pointed one or two out for me. I do admit this though, i don’t hide behind tittles of scholarship and language speaking.

    By the way, for a scholar who bangs on about scholarship all the time a lot of your reasonings are quite poor. The very first thing you said to me on this thread is a good example.

    Me: We ((referring to DS practitioners, like myself, and all other Buddhists, like yourself)) are so lucky to have Dharma. Sometimes i don’t understand why we can’t all just get along with it and enjoy what we have…

    You: Because Shugden practice is not Dharma, but the opposite.

    This reasoning is faulty in the extreme. To imply that the world of Buddhism is unhappy because a small sect practice something you don’t like is a big joke. If you were only referring to us practitioners, your comment sounds like a little kid going nah-nanah-nanah-nah.

    And lastly, you have made 3 or 4 little remarks about KG’s books now, can you give me some proper criticism?.

    Harry

  72. “based on your irrational attachment to western rationalism”

    -I’d be very, very careful before abandoning Western rationalism for many reasons too numerous to list here.

    I differ from Ron in that I also have my doubts about rebirth, and doubts about the bardo. I am not a buddhist and don’t claim to be one. It’s not something to declare lightly. I feel closer to Buddhism than any other spiritual tradition, but by not believing in reincarnation I fall at the first hurdle of being a true Buddhist.

    Anyway, Namdrol, as I’m sure you’re aware, HHDL says to Westerners not to become Buddhists, to practise Christianity or their own religion. I think he only accepts Westerners as Buddhists if they feel they have a very special calling to it. I know I don’t. Sure, Shugden may be based around a Tibetan cultural context of some sort of revenge/ attack spirit. Exactly: the whole concept of Dharma protectors seems to me to be a bolt-on practice to Buddhism as it spread from the West. As Buddhism spread through various countries and cultural contexts gods, demons and spirits were incorporated as protectors or enemies of Buddhism. Doesn’t mean they exist in a real sense though, does it? (Inherent existence arguments aside…)

    I hope I am not offending anyone here, I do not claim to be a scholar, this is just my lowly gut feeling. I think many in the West are interested in the psychological concepts and moral-ethical apsects of Buddhism without getting into pre-Buddhist rconcepts. Now, perhaps Namdrol will say you simply cannot separate out the Bon from Tibetan Buddhism without it falling apart, but I would ask you this: why should a Westerner believe in the country-specific aspects of Tibetan Buddhism any more than believeing in the cultural add ons provided by Cha’an Buddhism, or Buddhism from Sri Lanka?

    I have great respect for Tibetan Buddhism but the whole Shugden issue makes me hanker for some sort of Western approach to Buddha. As Buddhism spreads from the East, where is our interpretation? Where are our coultural interactions with Dharma. Christ as Dharma protector? ;-)

    It’s easy to criticise Westerners as cherry-picking the bits of Buddhism they do or don’t like, but Westerners, by choosing a tradition from country X or country Y, we inevitably cherry pick from the whole religion of Buddhism. Until a Western tradition emerges and settles in, this won’t change.

  73. “You will find out someday that you have been sold a bill of goods. Sadly when that happens, for you it will be too late. ”

    -Yikes! Fire and brimstone?

  74. Hi Bloofs,

    I think Dharma protectors are an essential part of most, if not all, of the Tibetan Buddhist schools (or ones that derive from). You can leave cultural aspects of the tradition, things that are only particularly relevant to the original country, but you cannot take away the pillars of the house. Of course an individual may benefit a lot from a Buddhist tradition without committing to any deities, but if he wants to travel the path to enlightenment as presented by that school he needs to rely on a protector. There are some internal and external conditions that are more favorable than others when it comes to traveling said path, and the function of the protector is to clear the unfavorable conditions away and replace them with good ones.

    In my tradition many people benefit from a just few teachings. Like you say, they find the moral-ethical guidance, for example, of much use. Or perhaps they just want to learn to meditate so they can relax or become less affected by the ups and downs of life. But those who wish to get enlightened rely upon such a protector.

    Best,
    Harry

  75. “There are many examples of monks being killed and so on who then arose as Gyalpos who were then tamed, and given an area to guard. For example, Shugden was given the job of guarding the Sakya monastery specifically by Sonam Rinchen. But you don’t command wisdom protectors to guard monastery compounds and so forth. ”

    -With the greatest respect, and I don’t mean to denigrate these beliefs, but if there were so many protectors/guards why didn’t they do a better job of stopping the Chinese when they invaded?

  76. “it’s true: if Christians adopt Buddhist practices and so on, they will not be Christians for very long. ”

    -Well that depends on the denomination. Many Quakers would probably be quite comfortable with the idea of practising Buddhism. Evangelicals would be dead set against the idea and describe Buddhism as idol worship among many other names.

    You could in theory practice many aspects of Buddhism as long as you relied on Christ as saviour. If you relied on Christ as saviour you would still be a Christian.

  77. “Yep, us Shugden practitioners are doomed to die a slow and painful death.”

    -It’s OK Harry, invisible spirits don’t exist, neither does the hell realm: their existence would be contrary to the laws of physics.

    At least you and namdrol can unite in telling me how wrong I am here! ;-)

  78. I can’t tell you that you are necessarily wrong. But i do think that the law of physics can only be applied to the physical world.

    Does the law of physics explain what happens before and after death? Does it prove there aren’t other realms? If you don’t know what happens before or after death i think it may be a bit out of place to claim that rebirth, for example, does not exist. You can believe one thing or another but to actually know is another story. To a non-believer i won’t claim that these things are definite, but to another Buddhist, i.e. Namdrol, i can talk about these things from the pov of belief as he believes it to.

  79. Hi Bloofs

    I think there’s enough compelling evidence from Buddhist sources to indicate that rebirth should be taking quite seriously. Certainly, it’s hard to dismiss the reasoning. Buddhism is remarkably logical. Far more so than western materialism.

    If you accept some basic buddhist philosophy, it because quite easy to demonstrate that hell realms almost certainly exist too.

    As for the bardo, I’ll admit I’m not entirely sure. But it certainly doesn’t seem that far fetched to me (once you’ve accepted rebirth).

  80. Hi Harry

    If GKG and Trijang can quote historical records to justify the legitimacy of Shugden, it’s only fair Namdrol could use the same means to refute it.

    History speaks alot about the tradition of Shugden and helps to clarify some issues. So i’m actually grateful for Namdrol’s input.

    However, if you prefer to appeal to “present” spiritual authorities, there are no shortage of contemporary masters condemning the Shugden practice:

    Gelug:
    13th and 14th Dalai Lama

    Kagyu:
    HH Sixteenth Karmapa

    Sakya:
    Dzongsar Khyentse Chokyi Lodro (expelled Shugden from the Sakya monastery Derge Gomchen)

    HH Sakya Trizin

    Nyingma:
    Chatral Rinpoche (renowned Dzogchen master who wrote a book refuting Shugden)

    Trulshig Rinpoche

    the list goes on…

    GKG is probably right about alot of things, but i am afraid he’s wrong about Shugden.

    And about Namdrol’s credentials, you might not think much about it but he earned his Sakya Loppon title, is a qualified teacher and has an encyclopaedic knowledge in Buddhism. Of course he’s also fallible as any other human being but i value his comment nonetheless.

    I have once heard a Tibetan lama said, Namdrol is even more knowledgeable than many geshes today. Not a bad compliment i guess.

    Best

    Shaza

  81. Hi Shaza,

    You make some good points. It is true that GK and HHTR also quote historical records, but if i am going to apply my method to one side i can only be fair and try and apply it to the other side too. So yeah, i say ignore them all for a bit and try and analyze DS practitioners and groups for yourself. Look with your own eyes instead of the eyes of this and that master. You may decide that indeed what you have seen is cultish sectarian zombies. If after giving DS a proper look with an eye free from bias this is your conclusion, i fully respect it. Many people feel that the DL is unquestionable, to question him would be heresy. Yeah in the same way some people feel about GK. This comes from a person’s strong attachment to to their viewpoint, and most people have this to some extent until they start to see it for what it is. Scholars sometimes have this worse due to pride, especially if their levels of knowledge highly exceed levels of realization. Devadatta was a very early example followed by many others.

    I don’t prefer to rely upon present day masters i was refuting Namdrol’s claim that dead ones are more reliable than live ones. Ok maybe i was a bit disdainful of these methods and actually they “can” be reliable. However i still think it’s more reliable to check with your own eyes than with the words of others. I’m actually quite surprised that Namdrol didn’t say that the un-Buddhist behavior of the WSS is an example of DS’s sectarian nature. It is very fashionable these days to say that Buddhists aren’t allowed to raise their voices.

    I respect Namdrol’s knowledge and scholarship, but at the end of the day like is said before these things aren’t of that much weight if he doesn’t have much inner experience of his knowledge. I don’t claim to know how realized he is, however his attitude and fuzzy reasonings leave me wondering. I’ve read many people on survivors complaining about such attitudes in the NKT. Someone skillful at debate and with
    a good sense of logic would surely have much more influence on a newbie like me right? Somebody, for example, who sways me more with his words is Tenzin Peljor, who doesn’t seem to need to resort to abusive techniques.

    I was a bit childish a few messages back in trying to have the last word, but it’s clear from Namdrol’s messages that he likes to play these ego games too. Messages 81-87. His words would have more impact on me if he weren’t so keen on being right all the time. I would like to imagine that a good scholar is a bit more humble, even if he thinks he is right.

    And finally with the way information is so easily available in the west now, and with many works translated, and with the fact that Namdrol can speak Tibetan it’s not really that incredible that he knows more than “some” Geshes. I’m sure he’s not the only westerner. That said you are right, it’s not in itself a bad compliment in itself. I wish i knew that much.

    Peace,
    Harry

  82. “HHTR also quote historical records, but if i am going to apply my method to one side i can only be fair and try and apply it to the other side too.”

    Many of the statements Trijiang Rinpoche presents are apocryphal that is, they are either texts, like the supposed praise written by the great Fifth, for which originals cannot be located, or assertions that do not go further back that Pabhongkha’s own writings, or are just plain hearsay which support his point of view.

    In short, his commentary is not a solid piece of scholarship by western standards.

    You base your acceptance of Shugden on blind faith. I base my refutation of Shugden practice on the clear record of the history of this practice.

    “I’m actually quite surprised that Namdrol didn’t say that the un-Buddhist behavior of the WSS is an example of DS’s sectarian nature.”

    This is self-evident.

    “Someone skillful at debate and with
    a good sense of logic would surely have much more influence on a newbie like me right?”

    Nothing is going to sway you, Harry.

    “I was a bit childish a few messages back in trying to have the last word, but it’s clear from Namdrol’s messages that he likes to play these ego games too.”

    I am not playing games, Harry– when I told you that were not qualified to judge the qualities of different translations, I meant it. This is not an ego game, this is simply an estimation of your aptitude to make all the wide ranging judgments you make about this and that. It is like judging whether or not you are qualified to judge a translation of something out of Spanish– if you can’t read the original, you cannot form a judgment about the accuracy of the translation. This is not a put down of your character, it is an assessment of your knowledge– your problem is that you take things too personally.

    Frankly, the only argument you have is “Shugden has been nice to me, therefore I feel that he is ok.” This argument has been put forth and dismissed. The role of worldly protectors is to act quickly to secure common things for practitioners. I have in a lot of detail about how these things work, the cultural context of Gyalpo spirits, what they do, why Tibetan Lamas use them and so on.

    I am not keen on being right, Harry– I am right concerning the nature of Shugden. You, Kalsang Gyatso, Trijiang, Pabhongkha, Tabo, etc., going right back to the anonymous Gelug Lama who first identified Tulku Dragpa Gyaltsen as a Manjushri emanation (a claim clearly rejected by Ngulchu Dharmabhadra) in a version of the Ganden Lhagya ma torma offering to the lineag dating the the early nineteenth century are all wrong.

    The sectarianism of the Gelug version of Shugden practice goes back to its rise in Mongolia among conservative Gelug Lamas there who were disturbed by the numbers of Gelug Lamas that were following in the footsteps of famous Gelug/Nyingma yogis like Shabkar, and abandoning the traditional program of Tsongkhapa to become Dzogchen practitioners. So they elevated Shugden to the status of being _THE_ protector of the Gelug School, and used wrathful rites of Shugden to target Nyingmapas– they still do this in Mongolia and that is a fact. We have an autobiographica record of a Nyingma yogi passing through Drathang as early as the 1820’s who mentioned in his autobiography how discomforting it was to be near places where Shugden was worshipped by Gelugpas. So, sectarian nature of Shugden is also quite obvious at an early stage.

    N

  83. Namdrol,

    “You base your acceptance of Shugden on blind faith. I base my refutation of Shugden practice on the clear record of the history of this practice.”

    You have no idea what i base my acceptance of DS on. I’m not the blind faith type (quite luckily really, since you expect me to believe you because you are a scholar and because a lot of previous masters said so). Like is said earlier i have my means.

    Clear record? Right.

    “I am not keen on being right, Harry– I am right…”

    Classic Namdrol literature.

    “Nothing is going to sway you, Harry.”

    Likewise, Namdrol. As neither of us have much faith in each other (and naturally because you are right and i am wrong) i don’t see any point in continuing this conversation.

    Take care,
    Harry

  84. Harry:

    You belong to a group of people who are engaged in a practice is universally harmful. It is so obvious; and yet it is so sad that the very people who cannot see this are the people most wrapped up in it.

    How many accounts of suicides, murdered Lamas and high officials, external reports corroborating Trijiang Rinpoche’s accounts in the Yellow Book and so on do you need to hear before you realize what you’ve gotten yourself involved in?

    I don’t blame you– I blame your misguided teachers who encourage you to do this practice.

    “The much talked about “yellow book” contains stories of what happened to people who “displeased” Dorje Shugden, which means to say, they were practitioners of Je Tsongkhapa’s tradition and of Dorje Shugden as Dharma protector who did not heed his repeated advice and warnings not to mix and pollute the teachings. Sickness, insanity and death ensued.”

    http://www.dorjeshugden.com/sectarianism.htm

    These people, at least, are not confused about the Yellow Book, and see no reason to explain it away as a fabrication of Zeme Tulku, that way Kalsang Gyatso has.

    This is what you are practicing, Harry– a deity who will make you make you sick, insane and will ultimately kill you. From the same text:

    “The sickness was due to certain poison. When he recovered, his whole body had become bluish. Dorjee Shugden also used other means to persuade Je Phaphongkha to practice and propagate pure Gelug tradition free of defilements. Finally he stopped taking and practicing Nyingma teachings and did not propagate what he had learned.”

    Who, other than in insane person, would take up this practice if they knew that this is what Trijiang Rinpoche believed about Dorje Shugden?

    N

  85. Namdrol,

    I’m tempted to answer but don’t see the point.

    I hope you make it to the heavens, Namdrol, but if you happen to fall maybe i’ll see you in the fires. Maybe we’ll become buddies down there : )

    No, honestly, i wish you all the best.

    Peace,
    Harry

  86. Harry:

    None of this is personal.

    I would not bother writing about this if I did not wish everyone the best. And I think it is best of people put this practice down and forget about it.

    N

  87. Namdrol,

    You have established this already quite a few times. Since you know you’re not going to change my mind i don’t know why you persist; I have explained already why i don’t trust you. Unless of course your aim is to tell everyone else through addressing your posts at me. Nice manipulation technique if that is so.

    Goodbye!

  88. Hi Harry

    Everyone has their style. Tenzin Peljor is exceedingly courteous and Namdrol is known to be blunt and does not mince words, that’s him. But they are all well-intentioned. (Frankly i haven’t seen Namdrol this patient for quite some time)

    Whether these chaps are realized or not is really none of my business because they are not posing as my gurus. But their words are honest and the good thing is we can always check and investigate for ourselves.

    It’s not exactly a pretty scene when one’s faith is mired in controversy. And it’s probably tough to question the words of those you have placed your trust on all these years. That’s why i think people are here to talk about them, so that one is in the position to make informed choices when the moment comes.

    “Scholars sometimes have this worse due to pride, especially if their levels of knowledge highly exceed levels of realization. Devadatta was a very early example followed by many others”

    GKG might appear to be a humble monk, but judging from his words on Shugden, I don’t think he’s any more realized than Namdrol.

    Best

    Shaza

  89. Can I ask why a malevolent spirit like Shugden was propitiated at all then? Why was the practice once accepted and then banned? Shouldn’t Shugden have been avoided in the first place?

    Isn’t the concept of guardian spirits / dharma protectors who can harm others if requested a bit anathema to the concept of a compassionate religion?

  90. Ron – one problem I have with rebirth is that the universe is generally accepted to have a beginning. Before the universe came into being in the ‘big bang’ there was literally nothing. Time itself did not exist before the universe did. If life is one unending cycle as Buddhists believe, this contradicts the scientific view of a time when the universe did not exist.

    One day life on Earth will not exist, our sun will die. There won’t be any more rebirths as humans.

    Now I know Mahayana Buddhism answers this with the multiverse cosmology but until the universe formed there were no other universes: nothing existed, not time, not space.

  91. “How many accounts of suicides, murdered Lamas and high officials, external reports corroborating Trijiang Rinpoche’s accounts in the Yellow Book and so on do you need to hear before you realize what you’ve gotten yourself involved in? ”

    -People don’t necessarily need the push of an evil spirit to commit suicide or murder each other though do they? That’s humanity for you.

  92. “So they elevated Shugden to the status of being _THE_ protector of the Gelug School, and used wrathful rites of Shugden to target Nyingmapas– they still do this in Mongolia and that is a fact”

    -Yikes! So much for the image of peaceful, tolerant Buddhists that so many of us in the West liked to believe.

    *sigh* to be honest this whole thing is putting me off Buddhism full stop.

  93. “Can I ask why a malevolent spirit like Shugden was propitiated at all then? Why was the practice once accepted and then banned?”

    Bribed and controlled is more the ticket. The Tibetan cultural obsession with protectors is a bit of a holder over from pre-Buddhist Tibetan culture. In fact, many local protectors in many monasteries in Tibet, including Gelug monasteries, are offerings to the local Bon deity in that monastery. Further, some deities were tamed by Padmasambhava, like the Tenma or the Tsiu Marpo, the main protector at Samye Monastery- but even these deities need to be reminded of their commitments.

    In this case, this spirit was finally tamed by Trichen Sonam RInchen in 1724, when he was 19. Apart from a single mention of Shugden, we know nothing of any other tradition of making offerings to this deity.

    But you have to understand, in Indo-Tibetan Buddhism, we regularly make offerings to all the worldly gods, such as Brahma, Indra, Vishnu. This is not unusual, offerings have been made to Indra and the four Kings such as Vaishravana from the beginning in Buddhism. The problem is not paying respect and making offerings to worldly deities, or even paying homage to them, as Sakya Pandita clearly points out– the problem is taking them for one’s refuge.

    So, it is not so much that it was ever accepted– if you look at the history around this practice, it has been the subject of much debate and controversy right from the beginning– there are even some, like the 18th century Gelug master, Sumpa Khenpo, who flatly deny that Shugden can be the incarnation of the Tulu Dragppa Gyaltsen, because it is impossible that he could arise in the form of a Gyalpo.

    “-People don’t necessarily need the push of an evil spirit to commit suicide or murder each other though do they? That’s humanity for you”

    In this case, the person doing the murdering _is_ the so called Dharma protector, Shugden.

    “-Yikes! So much for the image of peaceful, tolerant Buddhists that so many of us in the West liked to believe.”

    Such rites are generally reserved for those who are completely evil, who satisfy ten criteria. Sadly, in the case of Shugden practice and its proponents– whoever does not follow their narrow vision of the Gelugpa school is subject to attack.

    “Isn’t the concept of guardian spirits / dharma protectors who can harm others if requested a bit anathema to the concept of a compassionate religion?”

    In general, the function of Dharma protectors is to protect the Vajrayana teachings and punish those who do not keep their samaya with the teachings. The principle is that unlike common Mahayana teachings, Vajrayana teachings are very powerful, precious and easily abused, and therefore, those who abuse them are subject to punishments.

    On the other hand, the concept of Dharma protectors is really only a Vajrayana thing. If you don’t want to relate to that, you don’t have to relate to Vajrayana– there are plenty of other forms of Buddhism out there that do not use Dharma protectors. Of course, from our point of view, these other, exoteric forms of Buddhist practice, are not as effective as Vajrayana.

    N

  94. “The Tibetan cultural obsession with protectors is a bit of a holder over from pre-Buddhist Tibetan culture.”

    -Hmm, yes I thought so.

    “In this case, this spirit was finally tamed by Trichen Sonam RInchen in 1724, when he was 19. ”

    -So how does that work? It sounds a bit like shamanism.

    “But you have to understand, in Indo-Tibetan Buddhism, we regularly make offerings to all the worldly gods, such as Brahma, Indra, Vishnu. ”

    -Yes, which is why some have postulated that Buddha Shakyamuni was actaully a hindu reformer rather than someone who was trying to establish a new path.

    “Such rites are generally reserved for those who are completely evil, who satisfy ten criteria. Sadly, in the case of Shugden practice and its proponents– whoever does not follow their narrow vision of the Gelugpa school is subject to attack. ”

    -I think many Westerners would be very, very surprised by this viewpoint. ‘Completely evil’ I thought was something Buddhism did not agree with. Evil is more a case of delusions, isn’t it? Don’t we all have the Buddha nature? The lotus in the mud etc etc? Perhaps I am talking from another tradition’s perspective. So it’s OK to launch an attack spirit on someone as long as they are ‘completely evil’? hmmm….

    “In general, the function of Dharma protectors is to protect the Vajrayana teachings and punish those who do not keep their samaya with the teachings. The principle is that unlike common Mahayana teachings, Vajrayana teachings are very powerful, precious and easily abused, and therefore, those who abuse them are subject to punishments…

    -Don’t think Vajrayana is for me, then!

    …On the other hand, the concept of Dharma protectors is really only a Vajrayana thing. If you don’t want to relate to that, you don’t have to relate to Vajrayana– there are plenty of other forms of Buddhism out there that do not use Dharma protectors. Of course, from our point of view, these other, exoteric forms of Buddhist practice, are not as effective as Vajrayana. ”

    -I want to thank you, Namdrol, for clarifying all this, it sounds like Tibetan Buddhism (NKT or non-NKT) certainly isn’t for me. It seems to be replicating precisely what I’m trying to get away from in my spiritual path. So thanks for this caution. I will have to admire Tibetan Buddhism from a distance from now on.

    As a side issue though, if I do not follow Vajrayana, say I am a Theravada, can Dharma Protectors still be used to attack me? Or do I have to be a fellow practitioner?

  95. “As a side issue though, if I do not follow Vajrayana, say I am a Theravada, can Dharma Protectors still be used to attack me?”

    Wisdom protectors are Buddhas (i.e. the ones actually mentioned in the tantras themselves like Mahakala and so on), who will only punish those who directly harm Buddha’s teachings or practitioners of those teachings. So, no, they cannot be used to attack you.

    Worldly protectors could be used against anyone. But this kind of thing is base sorcery and is not Dharma at all. Frankly, you have more to worry about from Hindus and Moslems on this score.

    N

  96. Hi Bloofs

    I personally have come to the conclusion that ‘science’ has no answers. Actually, ‘science’ had come to this conclusion too. The Big Bang theory is no longer the ultimate explanation for how it all came to be. It’s now ‘string theory’. Unfortunately, there appear to be very few scientists actually capable of understanding the complexities of this theory. It seems most are now forced to develop faith in the one or two scientific mega-minds on the planet truly able to grasp it. And they’re not able to distill their knowledge into a simplistic enough form for mere mortals to understand it. Mostly, it seems, it now requires massive intuitive leaps to truly to come to terms with string theory, and scientists have been forced to drop the empirical standards that have defined scientific thinking thus far. In other words, science has come to the point of admitting that it just does not know.

    In Buddhism, none of these uncertainties are even relevant, as nothing exists outside the mind anyway. Everything is in the nature of mind. And none of that is inherently existant – not even mind itself (though perhaps this verges on nihilism, I don’t know). Pondering on the cosmos, the beginning of the life as we know it, etc. is simply abstraction. It assumes that the cosmos is inherently existent. Which it isn’t.

    As far as rebirth goes, even science has a theory regarding the conservation of energy and matter. It is both theoretically and practically impossible for either energy or matter to disappear. In fact, all matter and all energy is conserved in one form of another, sometimes merely changing form. I think this is basic Isaac Newtwon. Popular science doesn’t go beyond that, and I don’t really know any in-depth science, but it seems to me that science stops asking questions on this when it comes to life itself.

    Of course, Buddhism doesn’t. Buddhism recognises that every life is a continuum. It’s a point science is incapable of disagreeing with because it doesn’t have enough verifiable data to make such bold claims.

    Anyway, I could go on forever. The point is, rebirth makes ‘scientific’ sense too. I haven’t even really dwelt on buddhist reasoning for rebirth – and I think there is some formidable Buddhist logic that would make even hardened sceptics think twice.

  97. Hi Bloofs,

    “one problem I have with rebirth is that the universe is generally accepted to have a beginning. Before the universe came into being in the ‘big bang’ there was literally nothing. Time itself did not exist before the universe did. If life is one unending cycle as Buddhists believe, this contradicts the scientific view of a time when the universe did not exist.

    One day life on Earth will not exist, our sun will die. There won’t be any more rebirths as humans.”

    That the universe has a beginning is not the viewpoint of all scientists. I am not exactly sure what the theory is but i think it’s something like: our universe is either in a state of expansion or concentration. When the worlds and galaxies concentrate matter starts undergoing increasing pressure until finally there is a huge explosion, or big bang. Then for some time everything is in expansion stage, until slowly the matter starts to concentrate again heading towards the next big bang. And so on. Actually i’m not sure where i got this idea from so it could be a load of nonsense! However, I just looked up universe on Wikipedia and in the first paragraph of it’s article it says that some scientists (quantum, etc…) believe that this may be just one in many universes. It reminds me a bit of when scientists said the world was flat and then they started realizing that it wasn’t. Now, many scientists are challenging the view that our universe is the only one and that time and space have a beginning. This goes to show that scientists don’t always get it right. Good scientific views and good religious views don’t necessarily have to contradict each other. And of course religious people often hold inaccurate views too. Personally i love to speculate on the limitless amount of possibilities that our existence reveals.

    For sure this planet will be gobbled up by the ever-changing substances that keep it hanging in the sky. But that doesn’t mean that the only place where humans and other living creatures can exist is the earth, right? There are countless planets in the universe, we only know that there isn’t any life on a few dozen of those planets. Actually i think they did find some life forms on Mars didn’t they?

    I guess i don’t really know for sure that rebirth is a definite, but i am so far unconvinced by the reasons people present to indicate the contrary.

    Take care,
    Harry

  98. Hi Ron,

    Great post, i think it’s fantastic that science is coming to the viewpoint that it simply doesn’t know. It’s a humble view and opens the door to greater knowledge.

    When i was a teenager i read someone saying: the more i know and understand the more i realize how little i know and understand. Or something along those lines. This had a big impact on me, and to this date i still think this is a fantastic view to cultivate.

    Perhaps it would help me be a bit more humble and perceptive in my conversations with others, if i remembered it more often ;)

    Harry

  99. In short, science has failed to grasp the nature of mind, and so falls horribly short in answering many of the questions asked of it. And time is imputed. Instead of grasping strongly at notions of ‘beginning’, ‘middle’ and ‘end’, all imagined, we’d be better of trying to understand the nature of the minds that invent these ideas.

  100. Thanks Harry

    I wish I had a greater permanent grasp of how little I know. As it is, I’m not nearly as humble as I should be.

  101. Hi Bloofs

    I think I shared some of your views when I first become conversant with buddhism. At first, I felt Tantra was the part of Buddhism I was not interested in. Sutra made a lot of sense, but Tantra seemed superstitious, irrational and even dangerous. I’ve changed my mind, of course. Step by step, I’ve come to realise just how profound Vajrayana is. Though I can admire theravadan or Zen practitioners, it’s impossible for me not to think that they’re missing the most important trick of all. For me, it’s become Vajrayana or bust. However, I do sometimes envy Zen practitioners for the simplicity of their approach.

  102. There is some misconcepton that buddhism arose out of hinduism. In fact, this is very doubtful. Buddhism was not a new improved Hinduism at all. From my understanding, buddhist fundamentals have more in common with the much older spritual traditions that derived from the Indus Valley civilisations (in the area from as early 3000BC); Hinduism on the other hand is based on the vedas (vedic hymns) which derived from the aryans who invaded the region circa 1700BC. These two types of religion are quite distinct. Yes, there was a lot of mixing of spiritual practices as India has always been very dynamic in that regard. But at their most basic Buddhism and Jainism differ quite radically from vedic-based faiths bike Brahmanism or Hinduism, who believe in creator gods. The old Indus Valley religions believed in a form of cyclic existence, and Buddhism is very much part of that pedigree. The vedic faiths are quite different. In many ways, the similarities are superficial – the same gods etc. However, the historic picutre I’m painting here is with a very broad brush. These different movements influenced each other quite a lot.

  103. Bloof:

    ““In this case, this spirit was finally tamed by Trichen Sonam RInchen in 1724, when he was 19. ”

    -So how does that work? It sounds a bit like shamanism.”

    Buddha tamed yakshas with his “spriitual” majesty and so on; the principle is the same. Powerful Yogis can intimidate such spirits into submission and service, hence the accounts of Guru Rinpoche subduing the obstructing spirits that were interfering with the construction of Samye Monastery in the late eight century, and binding them into the service of Buddhism.

    As far as the completely evil thing goes– this is defined by how hostile beings are to the Dharma– some, like the Taliban, are so hostile to the Dharma, that by engaging in the destruction of Buddhist temples, statues, and so on, they create such negative karma for themselves, that their surest of hope of liberation is to be the object of such wrathful activities. The Buddhist Mahasiddhas of ancient India were often involved in converting Hindu kings and so on through displays of magical power.

    IN a real sense however, the actual aim of all these wrathful rites are one’s own self-grasping that manifest in the form of enemies.

    Vajrayana is a path of transformation rather than renunciation, therefore, all actions are open to the one who is realized enough to be able to use them. ‘

    N

  104. Hi Shaza,

    Sorry, i missed your post a few days ago, only noticed it just now.

    “it’s probably tough to question the words of those you have placed your trust on all these years. That’s why i think people are here to talk about them, so that one is in the position to make informed choices when the moment comes.”

    It is indeed difficult to question these things. It is something that one needs to learn how to do. I can only speak for myself, although i imagine it is like this for many, but it has taken me time to go from absolute denial that my teachers could be wrong to where i am now which is a less biased position. Of course, i still have fear. The fact that DS could be a spirit and KG all the things Namdrol says about him scares me a lot, as for many years i have viewed them as my family. However i do recognize the importance of being objective about these issues. Step by step i try to come away from my attachment and to analyze the situation without bias. I’m sure this procedure will take me quite a while. Hopefully with time my biases will decrease. If DS is a spirit i hope the other enlightened deities in my tradition will protect me from him frazzling my head. And my virtues of course, as nothing can overcome a spirit better than virtue. Oh wait, i don’t have very much virtue… arghhh…!!

    Definitely, like you say, it’s great to be able to talk about these things with people from different parties, like here.

    Perhaps Namdrol is after all well intentioned, even if to my mind he doesn’t appear to be. I should really give him the benefit of the doubt and perhaps even listen to his words more carefully. Since i started talking about DS (and related issues) with people online a few months ago i’ve tried to debate with 4 people who strongly oppose DS. Tenzin Peljor was the only one who in my eyes was quite reasonable. Namdrol comes next (not by far though) as the other two were plainly seething with contempt for NKT, KG, and DS. Namdrol’s abuse was a lot more restrained (calculated?) than the other two, and he certainly seems to have a lot more knowledge. I admit i haven’t actually done that much research into DS, so far i’ve only questioned his opponents. But so far these people (excluding Tenzin to some degree) have only made me gain more conviction that there are people or forces out there that are, for some reason (politics and/or attachment to the DL is my guess), trying to bring our tradition down. Of course, this is only my own gathered view after my experiences, and i still have a lot more work to do in order to uncover the truth about the situation. Perhaps i am being too defensive and therefore encouraging attack, maybe i’m still too biased to really let go of my own views and listen to others. Maybe i should do some real research. I guess you just gotta carry on trying.

    Peace,
    Harry

  105. Hi Harry,

    “But so far these people (excluding Tenzin to some degree) have only made me gain more conviction that there are people or forces out there that are, for some reason (politics and/or attachment to the DL is my guess), trying to bring our tradition down.”

    Quite the opposite, I think the NKT protesters are so attached to DL they can’t stop shouting his name.

    You know. It’s actually very odd that they never stop and ponder why so many masters beside the Gelugs are speaking against Shugden. They never question why Chatral Rinpoche wrote a book against Shugden. They never asked why Namkhai Norbu is cautioning people to stay away from Gyalpos. And they never asked why Sakya lamas like Dzongsar Khyentse Chokyi Lodro condemned Phabongkha and expelled Dolgyal from a Sakya monastery.

    Like you, i have been debating about this issue for around three months and you will be surprised to hear that the worst insults were hurled at me by a Shugden opponent, apparently because i did not agree with him.

    So you see, we even argue among ourselves. There is no “united front” against NKT (except perhaps NKT survivors), just different individuals who come to the same conclusion that Shugden is bad and NKT should abandon the practice right now.

    “Of course, i still have fear. The fact that DS could be a spirit and KG all the things Namdrol says about him scares me a lot, as for many years i have viewed them as my family.”

    Well, you should be afraid because NKTers including you are living under deceit, lies and denials. It’s all the more pitiful because many devout NKTers are people wanting to practice pure dharma but unfortunately found themselves in the middle of a controversy.

    But if they are your family and you care about them at all, you should even warn them about it if it turns out to be the case.

    It’s not about abandoning your family but saving everybody starting with yourself.

    Be a hero for once.

    Best

    Shaza

  106. Shaza,

    “Well, you should be afraid because NKTers including you are living under deceit, lies and denials. It’s all the more pitiful because many devout NKTers are people wanting to practice pure dharma but unfortunately found themselves in the middle of a controversy.

    But if they are your family and you care about them at all, you should even warn them about it if it turns out to be the case.

    It’s not about abandoning your family but saving everybody starting with yourself.

    Be a hero for once.”

    Umm… sorry Shaza, i’m interested in talking to people so i can understand more about the subject, but this kind of thing i’m not to keen on. I could play the game and refute your comments, and then reply with many questions for the DL and others, but i don’t think it would enlighten either of us.

    Peace,
    Harry

  107. Hi Harry

    If there’s something you want to say, you are more than welcomed to spit it out.

    I have learnt from my mistakes before so you are not doing me a disservice if you can refute my remarks.

    At least you can put me on the right path to enlightenment.

    So, bring it on.

    Best

    Shaza

  108. “I admit i haven’t actually done that much research into DS…”

    Then your claim you are not following Shugden based on blind faith is a little weak.

  109. Dunno what you gathered from my post but i have no wish to “put you on the right path”. Lol

    If i have some time in the next days maybe i’ll reply. It’ll be a critic of your post however so be warned!

    Take care.

  110. Oh bother, i sense a lecture on valid faith coming on? Oh no, i’m trapped, it’s coming at me…! NO… AAAAAAAAAAAAAAARRRRGHHHHHH

    Lol, sorry

  111. Hi Harry:

    “I have not told you what i do base my faith on, so your words are once more pretty weightless.”

    It isn’t necessary– since you can’t bring scholarship to bear on the issue, and by your own admission you have not and did not research Shugden practice before you began, the only basis you could have for faith is pure, blind trust.

    N

  112. Namdrol,

    I have good reasons to believe that my faith is reasonable in many ways. I don’t deny that i probably do still have some blind faith. But as i know some of my faith is valid it makes me laugh that you assert that because i haven’t done DS research out of my tradition and because i don’t know Tibetan books about DS my faith is pure, blind trust.

    I’m sorry but i don’t really want to discuss my faith with you, so do us a favour and drop it.

  113. thank you for your blog. I have been reading it off and on since last December. I was briefly in fact the EPC for Gen-la Dekyong. I love her with all my heart and know that she is a valuable teacher to many. But, then my reliance on her brought me to experience what I thought at the time was suffering and loss. I am so, so grateful for the experience so that I could get out before it was too late. I still have tremendous compassion, and gratitude to her and to the NKT. The experience has taught me how to walk the path of Langri Tangpa and mean it. Even those who have harmed me…I see as my holy spiritual guide because I was clinging pretty hard to my sense of inherently existing to even be disturbed by how I saw myself and others treated and the increasing zeal of assault launched at HHDL. Secondly, I believe wholeheartedly that I was rescued from holding wrong views by her kindness in treating me in a way that I would feel I had no choice but to leave. If she hadn’t, I would still be devoted to a path that brought me a lot of conflict, isolation, and pushed my sense of loyalty and devotion to do what I was told, even though I knew it was wrong. So I feel that out of a love for me, perhaps she did it on purpose. She knew more than anyone how much I love Buddha, and remain a disciple of JTK. Maybe, just maybe she gave me the nudge I needed to get out before I ended up ordained and in over my head. I know in my heart she is good–no one will ever convince me otherwise. She has the capacity for unrelenting faith–something I aspire to. I miss her dearly–and daily, for I felt that only she really saw my own unrelenting faith in Buddha, Dharma and Sangha. But I will carry on trying to transform it all into the path for the benefit of all sentient beings. I miss my sangha friends (who of course all disappeared now that I am out). Now that HHDL is ill, my heart has been wrenched back to look at the WSS site and today they are proclaiming 6 reasons HHDL is not a Buddhist. Oh dear….I am sickened and pray, pray, pray for everyone involved.

    Tomorrow I will participate in the fast for peace with HHDL, say my precepts, and think joyfully of Gen-la Dekyong and my friends at the NKT–whether they know it or not. They, and particularly she, will be in my mandala throughout all time.

    That helped….thanks.

  114. Hi Walker – Welcome! What a wonderful view you have cultivated of your NKT past. You appreciation and love sounds entirely genuine, yet there is no regret for your choice to leave. I admire your strength to leave even when you felt such a strong bond with your teacher. My departure was relatively easy because my relationship with my teacher had fallen apart, as had our center, so I simply walked away.

    I really loved Gen-la’s teachings and had a lot of admiration for her. Seeing the pictures of her participating so enthusiastically at the protests was disappointing. But, you have the right attitude – keep them at your heart and pray for everyone involved.

  115. Thanks for your kind words. And for your amazing blog. I look forward to your future submissions, particularly on the NKT and your journey.

    Take care,
    Walker

  116. ditto that LB ~ when we cling to form we suffer = as desire realm beings we don’t want to admit that ~ maybe the only way to finally free ourselves from the ignorance of this deeply ingrain habit is by being ‘dis-illusion-ed’ thru the kindness of our spiritual guide? = or maybe eye m just stubborn ~ either way its gotta hurt at least a little eh? else why wood we change?

  117. So much talk… so much excretions of the mind… not good, not bad. But what is the essence? Can any of you answer one question: “Who are you?” I am practicing in Soto Zen and Thich Nhat Hanh mindfulness traditions for many years. We have NTK in our city, which I have visited on few vacations and have done several Heat Jewel practices with them. I get that that there is a lot of compassion and warmth at NTK center, but my gut (before thinking) feeling says there is a lot OFF the track in that practice too, which is not good, not bad. This is just what is, that is all. Those who will see that will move on and those who will not see that will continue… The Buddha’s last teaching was: “Practice taking refuge in the island of the Dharma. Know how to take refuge in the Dharma, and do not take refuge in any other person or island. Mediate on the body, nourishing Right Understanding and mindfulness to master and transform your cravings and anxieties…” Taking refuge in a person or island is EASY, so some like it easy and some want to get to the crooks of the matter no matter how hard it gets. But all is fine, nobody is bad and no one is good, just like this. With lots of love in the Dharma for all of us.

  118. Hi Natasha

    NKT is vajrayana. At least, that’s the ultimate vehicle in the NKT, though many don ‘t practice it fully. NKT practice is intended ultimately to be a union of sutra and tantra. Soto Zen and Thich Nhat Hanh (I’m a great Thich Nhat Hanh fan too, by the way) are not – they are exclusively sutra. So it’s not clear to me whether you’re just responding to the simplicity of those presentations of dharma (as opposed to the complexity of Vajrayana), or whether it’s the NKT in particular that is “off track”. I suspect you’re responding to vajrayana and not the NKT as your comment about taking refuge in a person seems to be a reaction against guru yoga, which is a property of all vajrayana practice, and not just NKT practice. And I’m afraid guru yoga is not actually about ‘taking refuge in another person’. There’s a bit more to it.

    I don’t really know much about Soto Zen, but I am aware of Zen broadly, and the simplicity and minimalism of that branch of practice. I too enjoy the emphasis placed on mindfulness from Thich Naht Hanh and initially felt that this was an important element missing in the NKT. At first, I thought they did not put enough emphasis on this. When I started going to FPMT ‘mindfulness’ meditation classes, ‘mindfulness’ was described by my teacher there as ‘Buddhism 101′. Thich Naht Hanh certainly treats it that way too. The NKT doesn’t.

    However, the fact is that my real practice of mindfulness only really began in the NKT with tantric empowerments. In a short space of time after beginning on a Vajrayana path, my mindfulness has improved immensely. All the mindulness reading, and practice, and all the breathing meditation I did before that had neglibile results in terms of improving mindfulness in my day-to-day ‘meditation break’ experience (in the NKT, the ‘meditation break’ is any time spent out of meditation).

    So I don’t think you’re necessarily qualified to judge whether the NKT path is largely “off track” or not. It’s certainly a different path from the one you happen to be travelling. And as it encompasses tantra too, it takes a while before you’re actually practicing most aspects of that path.

    You have found a path that suits you, but I suspect that your understanding of the NKT path is simply not evolved enough for you to make the assessment you have. As for gut ‘feelings’, be aware that ‘feelings’ are empty of inherent existence. They are constantly changing, are based on contaminated aggregates and, ultimatley, signify nothing. ‘Feelings’, as many buddhists will tell you, are simply not to be relied upon.

  119. Hi Ron,

    I’m not sure i would agree that feelings are not to be relied upon. I think feelings are a useful tool that we can (and need to) use to navigate our path (or our lives, from a worldly pov). Virtue brings blissful, peaceful feelings and our delusions just… well… they just “feel” wrong. A good way to know if our Dharma practice is correct is to check to see if our mind is becoming more peaceful. If we are becoming more disturbed and unhappy we can know that we aren’t doing something right. So in this situation our feelings serve as a compass, indicating the way.

    Of course, we need to discern peaceful feelings correctly too. Are we just using our practice just to feel some relief from our daily stress, or is our peace coming from the confidence that arises from spiritual motivation and understanding?

    That said, i do find that in certain situations i can’t trust my feelings. But through gradually letting go of my fears and attachments in relation to my feelings, and through learning to analyze them objectively i think i can learn a lot from them. We can let our feelings guide us. After all, our deepest nature is Buddha. We just need to learn to get in touch with it.

    Buddhas have feelings, right? Ok, so their feelings are pure and ordinary beings have impure ones. But surely that is just two ends of the spectrum. In between there are feelings that are perhaps part pure, part impure. We can trust the pure part of these feelings. For example, if we rejoice in the actions of Buddha Shakyamuni we experience a pleasant feeling which is part pure, part impure. Pure because we are happy about BS’s deeds (good karma for us), and impure because we’re attached to pleasant feelings. Discerning between our attached feeling and our pure feeling we can choose to rely upon the latter in order to make progress. Here again, our feelings act as a guide.

    So although i risk being called a wee new age wanker, i would say we need to learn to trust our good instincts, gut feelings and intuitions. All accompanied with intellectual understanding of the path too, of course, if we are following Buddha’s teachings.

    Blah-babble-blip, whadya think?

  120. Mmmmmmmmmmmm.

    Recently, I’ve discovered the Myers-Briggs personality test and it seems I’m just not a feeling kind of guy. My personal preferance is to analyse every situation first. I am not one to be quided by feelings. You, however, may be a more touchy-feely sort of personality.

    Putting that aside, I don’t think personally that buddha nature equates to feelings. Feelings is just one of our contaminated agregates (form, feeling, consciousness, compositional factors and that other one I keep forgetting).

    Our buddha nature is well beyond any understanding we have of feeling. It doesn’t equate. That’s my take.

    Of course, as one of our aggregates, we have to understand that feelings are empty. Feelings can’t be trusted. They are not real. They are imputed. They change moment by moment. Mostly they are tinged with delusion.

    Having said that, how we respond to things has a lot to do with our karma, doesn’t it? And we will tend to respond instintively anyway. From my point of view, this is not particularly good. Buddhism is not about helping us get in touch with our feelings. It’s about training our mind, partly so that we can be free of them.

  121. Of course, until we are liberated, we’ll have feelings. I have to say, though, some of the best feelings I get come from non-virtuous actions (don’t ask). And virtous actions aren’t always accompanied by feelings of bliss.

    Part of our training is to change the way we feel in order to equate virtue with pleasant feelings and vice versa. Mostly that’s why we impute pleasant feelings in many of our Lam Rim meditations. This is good. Because in the end, it’s what we do that defines us, not what we feel (which changes on a momentary basis).

    It’s hard to accept really, because feelings are so central to our lives. But when you think about it, we give them far too much importance. We allow them to control our lives instead of using them as a tool to transform our minds.

  122. Unless i’m completely wrong about this one Buddhas do feel/have feelings. As far as equations about feelings go, i would say that Buddha state equates to pure feelings and samsaric state equates to impure ones. Peaceful feelings, unpeaceful ones.

    I’m not sure what you mean when you state the emptiness of feelings. It seems like your saying that because they are empty their aren’t trustworthy. Everything is empty, but does that mean nothing can be trusted? The Three Jewels are not (inherently) real either, but i think it’s safe to say we can trust them. Perhaps i’m missing your point. I would agree more with your statement “Mostly they are tinged with delusion”. I agree that because our feelings are mixed with delusion we should be watchful of them and of how they affect our actions.

    From your last paragraph i’m assuming that you perhaps have a bit of a negative view of feeling as a general concept. I personally don’t think feeling is a problem. The problem is grasping at good and bad feelings out of attachment. I would say feeling constitutes a very important part of both ordinary and enlightened existence.

    “Buddhism is not about helping us get in touch with our feelings.” I suppose this idea is very open to interpretation. In my little understanding “getting in touch with our feelings” means to understand our feelings better. We all have feelings, and in order to achieve inner peace we need to understand them. A person who is “out of touch” is someone who has little awareness of what is going on in his own mind. For example, an angry person who blames everyone else for his problems is out of touch with his feelings, with reality, with what is happening in his mind.

    I suppose i am more the touchy-feely sort. Maybe feelings are a useful tool for me whereas for others they can be a distraction. While my tendency is to suss a situation with feeling first, i do more and more realize the importance of analytical sounding. Personally i think we need to use both in equal measures but maybe that is just for me again. I think we are all born with certain inclinations but that doesn’t mean we don’t can’t work on other aspects of our character.

    Harry

  123. Ron – I think you have to be careful about discounting feelings as mere delusions or merely empty. Yes, they are indeed both of those this. And yes, we tend to pay way too much attention to these states of mind that are fleeting in nature.

    Yet, I think we have to be brutally honest about where we are on our spiritual path. I personally am not at a point where I can, with any real sincerity, transcend/transform my feelings. I can recognize them for what they are, but it doesn’t mean I have to discount them.

    One of the things that I am really coming to understand now that I am out of the NKT is how much spiritual bypassing I and my friends engaged in. Anytime I felt uncomfortable or things didn’t feel right, it was slapped with the label of my self-cherishing or self-grasping. So issues didn’t get tackled in my own mind and between sangha members because it was considered to only be putting a band-aide on the real problem – our self-cherishing mind.

    So, I think Harry, the New Age Wanker ;) made some good points. I think we do need to be able to trust our instincts, gut feelings, etc. Over time, with training and meditation, those instincts may naturally lead us along the path. But, in the meantime, if that small voice inside keeps telling you something, we should listen.

  124. Whether we are ‘thinkers’ or ‘feelers’, we’re all still stuck in the same samsaric mess. Mostly, our thoughts are as unreliable as our feelings are.

    Feelings are defined as ‘an all-encompassing mental factor’. Which means they’re always there, no matter what kind of minds we’re generating. Almost all feelings are tinged with attachment or aversion. Even those that aren’t are contaminated by self-grasping ignorance. This is simply our samsaric state. And I’m pretty sure that once we ditch these contaminated aggregates these feelings will go too.

    I don’t quite get this idea that buddhas have feelings. I really have my doubts on that. I think if it’s useful for you to think that, then go ahead. But personally, I think that buddhas are well and truly beyond that sort of thing.

    Of course, if they do have feelings, these are not contaminated by self-grasping ignorance and so cannot be equated at any of the feelings we have.

    Our feelings are certainly contaminated to the bone and are therefore completely unreliable. That is not to say that we need to dismiss them. They’re there and we can certainly recognise them for what they are. Until we’re free from samsara, we’re stuck with the little buggers. So I’d say we definitely need to recognise that they are not reliable.

    This is not simply a matter of them being empty of inherent existence. We can see, for instance, how impermanent our feelings are even in a conventional sense. My feelings for the NKT, for instance, change radically from month to month. My feelings for objects that don’t change, such as chocolate, are also infamously volative and unreliable. Sometimes I like it, sometimes I don’t. When South Africa won the Rugby World Cup last year, I was proud to be South African. When they got driled by the Wallabies last week, I most certainly felt more Australian. At my level, feelings are just conduits for delusions of one form or another. I am better off not acting on my feelings as this generally means acting on one or other delusion.

    However, it’s also true that you and I will continue to have feelings for quite a while yet, which is why we need to train our minds, so that we can get our feelings to work for us, rather than simply be a slave to them.

  125. Hi LB

    That last post was to Harry. Yours hadn’t appeared yet when I wrote it.

    I think what you’re describing is ‘cognitive dissonance’. The feeling that something is wrong with a situation. This can sometimes feel like a hunch or a ‘gut instinct’.

    You’re right – you can’t dismiss this sort of hunch lightly.

    Mostly, this sort of hunch appears in your mind because there’s something underlying that your subconscious mind (for want of a better term) has noticed. However, the thing amiss might be so subtle that your conscious mind (again, for want of a better term) is unable to see it.

    I would not call this a ‘feeling’, however. I would call this a subconscoius recognition of some kind.

    Forgive me if I’m rambling now.

    I am accustomed to this sort of ‘cognitive dissonance’ as I was a collector of antique weapons. There were large numbers of fakes on the market of a very high quality. Cognitive dissonance was a very reliable method for me of determining whether or not I should make the purchase of a particular item. I can highly recommend listening to this kind of ‘hunch’.

    So I certainly agree. An inner voice of this sort is invaluable.

    This notion of spiritual bypassing is an interesting one and I recognise what you’re saying about the over-preponderance of blaming the self-cherishing mind in the NKT.

    However, the view I’m formulating here on feelings is one I’ve become familiar with outside the NKT. It is a buddhist view that is certainly not incompatible with the kind of view the NKT may espouse. It’s based on the recognition that feelings are impermanent and mostly a figment of our imaginations, no matter how real they seem to be. In other words, it is a view based on the wisdom realising emptiness.

    I personally never fail to get into trouble when I act on my feelings. So I have found it incredibly useful to apply this knowledge to my life. It’s helped me enormously in dealing with the pain of some serious attachment, as well as other fundamental problems I’ve experienced recently. I can probably credit the fact that I still have a job to this particular insight.

    So, in short, feelings are the very least to be questioned. They change all the time. We should not act on them immediately. We certainly should not accept them unconditionally.

    I do believe that.

    Sorry for the ramble.

  126. Ron said . . .

    I don’t quite get this idea that buddhas have feelings. I really have my doubts on that. I think if it’s useful for you to think that, then go ahead. But personally, I think that buddhas are well and truly beyond that sort of thing.

    But aren’t love and compassion feelings?

    Also, you don’t need to apologize for rambling. You’re merely thinking out loud, and thinking – whether with your inner voice or outer voice – is always welcomed here.

  127. and house about the ‘desire’ to free all living beans from suppering?

    maybe cuz weeeee gots contaminated feelings we cant image wholy beans wit dem and dat wood be rite ~ butt dat doughnt mean they aint gots feeling = tech nikly speaking ~ feelings = experience

  128. Maybe ‘love’, ‘compassion’ and ‘desire’ are just words that help us relate to buddhas, who would otherwise be quite beyond our understanding. Maybe giving buddhas feelings is just a figurative device – something akin to personification.

  129. I wonder if Buddhas really are that different to us. If they are really that hard for us to understand.

    After all each Buddha was once a sentient being. And our essences are both Buddha.

    Monkees: feelings=experience. And experience is at the heart of all existence.

  130. Ways buddhas differ from us:

    can have countless emations
    omniscient – know everything that ever ever was and ever will be
    can manifest as anything
    have no contaminated aggregates
    have no negative seeds
    have no negative imprints
    are everywhere
    are not subject to the strictures of time and space
    are not subject to rebirth
    do not experience ageing
    do not experience sickness
    do not experience death
    are free from manifest suffering
    are free from pervasive suffering
    are in the nature of all other buddhas
    live in the dharmakaya
    have more than one body – truth body, nature body, emanation body

    Ways buddhas are similar to us:

    are not inherently existent

    In short, we have a long way to go.

  131. Nice debate though. I think everyone has good points on the subject.

    Ron: I find your stance on feelings a bit extreme in some ways. Still i admire your position, it takes courage to outright defy all of our ego’s elaborations. If we can do this and let our spiritual guide’s wisdom in we are well on our way out of here. Perhaps i’m still too attached to my touchy-feely tendencies and i should be more aware of their relative unreliability.

    LB: Spot on about spiritual bypassing in the NKT. I think it’s quite a common problem. I guess most of us are instinctively terrified at the prospect of looking inside. Our society provides wonderful tools for avoiding this process. Then we come into a spiritual tradition that teaches methods to achieve great things by turning inwards, but often we only hear the first part, we don’t hear the turning inwards bit, not because we intend to but because our habit of avoidance is so strong. The word denial is very relevant. And I guess sometimes people never gather the courage to take that step. I think usually after some time, or a lot of time, the teachings begin to sink in. After all every one of Buddha’s words is saying “look within”, but initially they go straight into one ear and out through the other. I know for myself that the process has been very slow. 5 years ago 100% avoidance, today it’s 99%.

    Harry

  132. Ron:

    Yes it seems that in some ways Buddhas are very different from us. And there are many valid and beneficial reasons to believe so. But in the context we were speaking about, feelings, i was just trying to point out that in essence we are the same. Buddha’s are just people, like you and me. They are awakened people, unlike us asleep people. They are non deluded and at peace, unlike us who are deluded and not that peaceful. But they used to be us. They are us, just not in samsara anymore.

    Buddhas feel, or experience, just like us. But because they have purified their bodies, minds and environments their feelings/experiences are pure. Doesn’t mean they don’t have them though. Buddhas feel joy, compassion, peace, etc… they aren’t just emotionally inert entities. That would make them sort of robots, no?

  133. Hi Harry

    I don’t really know. They seem quite God-like to me. I actually hope you’re right, because it means I have more of a chance of waking up one day to find I really am Vajrayogini.

  134. Thanks for calling me extreme though. I do admire extremists. The reason I got involved in Buddhism is that it is extreme. Embarking on a path like this is revolutionary really. As I read somewhere, taking refuge is really a complete rejection of the mediocrity of unenlightenment. (or something like that). It is a really magnificent thing.

    I’ve lost a little of my intensity recently, in dharma terms. But it’s the extremism of the bodhisattva path that really appeals to me. Shantideva and the boys are real role models.

  135. Yeah i guess the path is extreme for us obscurers. After all the way of the Bodhisatva is to travel 180 degrees in the opposite direction to common folks. But i take it one degree at a time.

    You are (extremely) Vajrayogini.

  136. eye like it ! since LB seems to attract the odd and rebellious maybe this is a bit more x stream?

    ‘renunciation’ a complete rejection of the mediocrity of unenlightenment. (?)

    ?

    flamin swords !

  137. stayin wit the shittyness of suppering theme for just a bit ~ ainit jsut that we x spect it (the shit and suffering) to be different than itiz ?

    mostly we r lookin at male bovine excrement of one form or an udder witch only shows to go ya that form real eye iz M T.

  138. I now re-read this post, Severed Ties, in the light of me having been kicked out of the New Kadampa Tradition. It is several years later, and I am several hundred years older. The manner in which I was ejected poisoned every experience I had while there. In hindsight, no it was not not a family to me either. It was a bad, abusive marriage too. Followed by a bitter divorce. The kind of divorce that leaves you wondering if you will ever love again. LB, I used to look at you and hope you would turn around and reconnect with your NKT past. I was fine with the fact that you didn’t but secretly I believed you’d made an error in leaving “the path”. But the way you dealt internally with your severed ties was healthy compared to me. I am in the FPMT – I really didn’t have to go around looking for my path after leaving. I have been lucky in that way. But the process of being ostracised in the NKT has left a lingering hatred and anger that has been very difficult to overcome. It has left lasting damage. In the comments here I deflect the notion of the NKT being cult. That was then. This is now. Today, I look back with regret for nearly six years I wasted with an organisation I now consider to be cultic in the extreme. I have nightmares about my time in the NKT. I now know I was never even on a path to any kind of happiness. I was on path to disillusionment and personal destruction. Unlike you, I have no friends from my NKT days. They are gone. The family I thought I had – well, it was all in my mind. Like you, I learnt an enormous amount. But the price I paid was too high for me to feel I benefitted hugely. In these posts you’ll read comments from an NKTer somewhat on the fringes of the organisation, but nonetheless deeply “committed” (a word that takes on a whole new meaning when you join). Today, I am a cautionary tale for anyone who gets involved with the NKT. I got burnt. I got burnt very very badly. And I didn’t even get that close to the fire. LB, I’ll understand if you choose to moderate this comment. Up to you. But on re-reading, it’s a postscript I thought I should add. A postscript I needed to add.

  139. Hi Ron – I wouldn’t dream of moderating your comment. You are certainly not the first person to express these sentiments about the NKT. Weren’t you subscribed to the NKT Survivors mailing list a while ago? There were some stories there that were far more extreme and painful than anything I ever experienced. And I’m sorry that you have entered the ranks of the wounded ones. I have a good friend who left shortly after I did, and she’s still dealing with a lot of anger about how she was treated – and she wasn’t even that firmly entrenched in the organization.

    Even though I can look back on the NKT without much animosity, I still sometimes feel the reverberations. Right now I’m practicing an interesting (and sometimes confusing) mix of the Theravada and Vajrayana. The person whom I consider my main teacher right now, officially teaches in the Theravadan tradition. However, he also practices Dzogchen and has a background in other traditions. But, I’m also attending a Kagyu center and studying Mahamudra. And while I think the teacher is the real deal (she is a Western woman), I stay rather aloof at the center and refuse to join, even though financially it would be cheaper than paying each class. They’re lovely people, but it’s just a bit too much of a homogeneous community. When I go to class, there is definitely a warm, clubby vibe – they all seem to know and like each other. And it seems like they are willing to pull me into their warm embrace. But, because of my NKT past, I feel very wary of becoming enmeshed in any spiritual community. One of the reasons I feel comfortable in the Theravadan sangha I’ve chosen is that a) it is a bit more diverse than most and b) it is large enough where I can simply go by myself, have a nice sit and listen to a good dharma talk, without someone being up my ass with tea and conversation.

    Having now had contact with a fair amount of teachers who have decades of practices and actual experience of what they are teaching, my current theory of the dysfunction of the NKT is that most centers are run by mostly well-intentioned people who have not yet deeply experienced the teachings for themselves. They are teaching from books and Geshe-la’s experience. To me, there is such a palpable difference in hearing the dharma from someone who knows it by heart versus someone who is able to recite from a dharma book by heart. So, even though Geshe-la may have lots of wisdom and can point this out to his followers, people need to develop it for themselves. I think some of the abuses and bad behavior at various NKT centers are because people simply haven’t developed their own wisdom and compassion, and believe that through devotion they can piggy-back on Geshe-la’s.

    Hope you are well and that eventually you can find some peace with your NKT past.

  140. What you say is true, LB, but i think you let the NKT off somewhat lightly. The NKT is much more problematic in my view than just the dysfunctionality you describe. For one thing, there’s the nightmare of becoming involved in a group that has cut itself off from not only from Tibetan Buddhism, but from Buddhism at large. In the end, being in the NKT was like being back in Apartheid South Africa – the lies, the self-deception, the paranoia, the isolation, the propaganda, the re-invention, the mythologies created to compensate for the fact that everything was all a bit odd, it was all there in spades. The comparison with South Africa, or any other totalitarian culture, is actually scary. The things that were never said were as daunting as the things that were.
    That in the end is probably why I couldn’t continue. I’d been through the same sort of experience before. I’d grown up with it. My eyes were wide open. I’m a bit like you now – finding it difficult to immerse myself in the new community. Slowly but surely I’m becoming more involved though, but it’s totally different. That extreme cultish thing is just not there at the FPMT. But I’m still not anywhere over my NKT experience – when even the slightest bit of cultishness raises it’s head at the FPMT, or anything reminds me of the NKT (they are similar as they both gelug) I immediately go through a bit of a crisis of faith.

    Mostly, I think my experience is difficult to understand – just why I went so completely against the grain at the NKT in the end. And it lies in the fact that I’m South African and spent most of my youth having to deal with propaganda, lies, social manipulation and the like. I just couldn’t take it. Whereas most of my Australian or European sangha friends just didn’t see the set up the way I saw it.

    Of course, I’m nowhere near the only one who’s had a bad experience like this. Others have too. Many others. But i think nonetheless that my SA background made it a lot more difficult for me to accept a lot of things in the NKT.

  141. Another interesting thing to ponder.

    The NKT’s fiercest critic, by a long shot, is someone else who grew up in a totalitarian society. That is Tenzin Peljor, who is East German.

    I have sometimes read him explaining his experience by relating it to his East German experience.

    The truth is all totalitarian societies are similar. South Africa and East Germany may seem ideologically world’s apart, but they operated in the same way – coercion, propaganda, a constructed ideology.

    And both systems came crashing down, leaving no doubt to anyone who lived through it that it was all an elaborately constructed illusion. Both societies were built on false foundations and propped up by deceit. In both societies, they relied on keeping people mentally subdued and in denying the truth of things.

    South Africa and East Germany were very similar and I imagine me and Tenzin grew up with a very similar sort of experience in many ways.

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