Check For Yourself Before You Wreck Yourself, Lessons from Leaving The NKT

This article is written by AB at @happyops.

I wanted to write this article as a reflection on a personal matter rather than our typical group article. This article is just from me.

Previously I wrote this article:

To conclude this short series, in this article I would like to reflect my own personal experiences with leaving the New Kadampa Tradition (NKT). These are my own personal opinions and do not reflect the opinions of @happyops.

Ignoring The Warning Signs

I ignored the warning signs, such as the self-spoken oral history that was passed around the New Kadampa Tradition (NKT) organisation and self-installed leader, but I did not question it. I knew about some of the protesting that had occurred around the Dorje Shugden controversy, but I did not know it was an on-going issue.

Even though I spend more than my fair share of time in front of a computer, I failed to do a Google search on the organisation or the self-installed leader. It was only when another NKT student, who had been so enveloped in the group, suddenly stopped attending classes. Even when I contacted them, the NKT student was reluctant to describe the reasons why they had suddenly disappeared from the community. With a little prodding, they eventually described their internet research and the questions that it raised, how they had contacted teacher from another centre, and how all of this information had brought their Buddhist practice to a crashing halt.

Red flags should have immediately been raised when they showed no reverence for the Dalai Lama, with no mention of the Dalai Lama in teachings or images of him on the alters. I had read some Dalai Lama books but they were simply not discussed or mentioned, only the books by the NKT’s leader Geshe Kelsang Gyatso.

Leaving The NKT

  • Everything in Samsara is tarnished: Everything in Samsara is subject to the petty agendas and games of manipulation by people, even something as special as the Dharma.
  • Alone outside the community: I had enjoyed the warm glow of the close-knit NKT community. I had experienced the enthusiasm to understand more of the NKT presentation of the Dharma. Even though I had felt so close to other students in the NKT community, after I left I was never contacted by anybody in the NKT community. The sense of loneliness was very strong after I left the NKT community.
  • Seeking advice: I was lucky enough to find two FPMT Buddhist centres where the teachers were able to offer advice and help my situation. I was grateful for their experience, as they had offered other ex-NKT students similar advice. I was deeply saddened to hear that there had been many of people facing the same situation as myself, others that had found serious sexual issues or financial issues because of the NKT.
  • Questioning Buddhism: I no longer knew what was legitimate Buddhism. I felt as though the ground underneath me was shaken and there were no solid teachings to rely upon. I was ready to throw away the entire Dharma because of this experience. Maybe it just wasn’t worth it. I very nearly threw it all in. It was only because I met with FPMT teachers who brought me to the Buddha and the Buddha’s teachings that I did not.
  • Questioning Teachers: There was a sense of dread in changing one acronym (NKT) for another acronym (FPMT). But I felt that because the FPMT followed and showed deep reverence to the Dalai Lama then they couldn’t be too bad. The experience with the NKT has made me deeply distrustful of Buddhist organisations and their agenda. I am also careful with teachers and the practice Guru Yoga. I don’t think that I will be able to place that much trust into a Dharma teacher, other than the Dalai Lama!! I simply do not trust anybody else enough to put them into such a position of trust.

Since Leaving The NKT

Leaving the NKT was a while ago. I am grateful to the NKT because they introduced me to Buddhist practice, and I try to focus on those benefits from my experiences with the NKT community, teachers, organisation, and leader. But I am certainly glad that I did not stay any longer. Since then I have been able to engage in more serious Buddhist practice and my spiritual practice has developed through the FPMT and even see HH Dalai Lama who I hold in deep reverence.

Wishing you every happiness, AB and @happyops.