Header image header image 2  


Before NKT arrived on the scene during the 1990s, almost no one outside of Tibet had heard of Shugden.

Kelsang Gyatso changed that, leaving Tibet and Tibetan monasteries and practices to export and redefine Shugden for western consumption, differentiating his output from mainstream Buddhism and to develop a western corporation now with significant real estate assets around the world filing anual profit and loss statements with the government. NKT corporation also has a proclivity to threaten lawsuits against Buddhists and media outlets discussing NKT's political and business interests.

Kelsang Gyatso's Shugden has been good business for NKT. Now, hundreds, perhaps thousands, of westerners cannot live without Shugden.

The lives of NKTites who invest themselves beyond a few visits are defined by NKT's Shugdenism. Their happiness, health and financial success are Shugden dependant.

NKT's western Shugden converts are devastated by and recoil against anyone who does not join NKT's obsession, claiming that they are hurt and lost when anyone says that Shugden may not be lord and king of the world. Often, acting like a child without his or her security blanket they become very angry by anyone questioning their Shugden defences and militancy.

Kelsang Gyatso's Shugden is the subject of much of NKT's public persona and the basis of NKT's battle with Tibetan Buddhism most notably directed against the Dalai Lama, Tibetan monasteries and the Tibet Government in Exile (comprised of about 100,000 Tibetans living in India). Unfortunately, many NKT supporters call for the overthrow of the Dalai Lama and dismiss Tibetan Buddhism today as corrupt because they do not endorse NKT's battles.

(note: neither the Dalai Lama nor Tibetan Buddhism has any relevance to NKT, which is neither required to adhere to the Dalai Lama's views in any way nor a part of Tibetan Buddhism; NKT is entirely independant from any school of Buddhism or any religion)

While Kelsang Gyatso claims devotion to the Tibetan Lama Tsongkhapa, little of Kelsang Gyatso's business adheres to Tsongkhapa's teachings and monastic vows (none of which involved Shugdenism or Kelsang Gyatso's variant for western audiences). Ironically, Kelsang Gyatso uses the name of Tibetan schools of Buddhism (Kadampa and New Kadampa) in NKT's name (New Kadampa Tradition).

Mesmerized by Kelsang Gyatso's old-world charisma, NKT followers are quick to embrace and evolve Kelsang Gyatso's variant of Tibetan Shugdenism into NKT's quest to spread itself around the world.

To implement his Shugdenism, Kelsang Gyatso produces a mostly young clergy taking few vows compared to mainstream Buddhist clergy. NKT's clergy eadily and regularly ridicule Tibetan Lamas having decades more training about and extensive experience with Buddhism generally and Tibetan Buddhism specifically. Many have been 'ordained' by NKT with merely a few months membership in NKT and little if any training before or during their tenure with Tibetan Buddhism. Their only teacher is Kelsang Gyatso. Almost all NKT clergy have merely a few hours exposure to Kelsang Gyatso annually sitting in the audience at those NKT festivals that Kelsang Gyatso attends. Few have read any books about Buddhism other than the simplified works sold at bookstores for the general public said to be written by Kelsang Gyatso, hardly sufficient for properly ordained clergy with public responsibilities (explaining in part NKT's history of sexual scandals of Kelsang Gyatso's appointed heirs). Because of all the constraints placed on them, it is preposterous to consider NKT's clergy reliable teachers of Buddhism.

Pontificating widely on the Internet, generally with intense anger and name calling, NKT's western followers presume that they are now the world's foremost Shugden experts, mutating a Tibetan obscurity into a public policy, basis for protest rallies and prolific Internet campaign that significantly extend what was and is known about Shugden in Tibet. Though they reject Tibetan Buddhism and customs, they have become skilled at Tibetan lingo and folklore and often write about Tibetan Tulkus, Buddhist lineages and politics, as if such expertise will give them credibility and favors from Shugden.

It is rare for an NKT advocate to reflect upon NKT's tactics for recognition.

So, it was nice to read the following comment from an NKT advocate,

"I am very sorry for what I am about to say, if it may sting; I don't mean this in a disrespectful manner. But shouldn't we, as dharma practitioners go beyond just saying we were hurt and use that over and over again to justify why we are angry, not in a peaceful state of mind or lash out at others? Yes, there is no denying that you were hurt and but then what? Are you going to allow that to justify all the anger that you're feeling and continue to "share" with the world forever?

Would it be more helpful and healing, perhaps, to transform that hurt into something positive? Instead of just feeling angry all the time and "getting back" by constantly reminding ourselves (and others) of what the other person has done to us, try to look at how you can help others in the same situation, bringing light and relief to others who are suffering in whatever way?

The first method clearly isn't working – it just brings more angst, anger and sadness to yourself, and possibly more hurt to other people also. Ironically, you end up perpetuating and spreading the very hurt that you had received from that person who had hurt you in the first place. The latter method – it might not right the wrong of the past, but it has far more potential for bringing some light to others. It is more likely to "work" in terms of healing our minds and helping us come to some peace, as there is more potential for benefit and positivity from that action instead."