A Clinical Psychology Assessment of Buddhism

The New Kadampa Tradition Report web site published this report (see link below) in June 2019. This report is written by a clinical psychologist and their assessment of ex-NKT students is damning. Interestingly, some statements about the NKT could be said about many Buddhist schools. As discussed previously, the NKT is unabashedly a cult that engages in the practices of a cult. Buddhism is definitely not a cult. We found the analysis by a clinimal psychologist gave us interesting ways to think about Buddhism in general.

1. Dissociation from the body, derealisation and depersonalisation pg.44: We think that a degree of depersonalization or derealisation is a part of what the Wisdom aspect of the path develops as we loosen our attachment to self and objects. However, the report describes how the NKT fails to off-set the Wisdom aspect of the path with the Method aspect of the path that is grounded in compassion and teachings on conventional truth.

2. Anxiety linked to fear of rebirth in a hell realm pg.44: There are some aspects of the teachings that we find difficult to relate to suffering in real life. We find the descriptions of the Hell and Hungry realms as almost medieval and more akin to the suffering of Catholic saints. We have seen people walk out of teachings in tears after hearing about the suffering in the lower realms. We find teachings like this to be unhelpful in generating bodhicitta, when we can see so much suffering in the world just by reading the newspaper headlines.

3. Obsessive compulsive urges linked to ‘purification’ of negative minds pg.44: The comparison that is often used is that of a stringed instrument, like a guitar or violin. If the instrument is strung too loosely then it will not play music, which means that there will be no benefit in our spiritual practice. If the instrument is strong too tight then the strings will break, which refers to the type of burn-out described in the report. But with the right balance, we can develop good qualities and full Enlightenment through Buddhist practices. There are a lot of Buddhist practices available that we can implement in our lives, bringing happiness to ourselves and others. There are many ways to purify negative minds, as Shantideva describes in ‘Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life’ chapter 1 verse 14:

Just as by the fire that will destroy the world,
Great sins are surely and at one consumed by it [bodhicitta].
It’s [bodhicitta’s] benefits are thus unbounded
As the Wise and Loving Lord explained to Sudhana

4. “According to the Cult Information Centre, hypnosis and trance states are the main method of mind control used by cults” pp.11-12: Through meditation states of hypnosis and trance-like states can be achieved that can be described as focused and somewhat hypnotic, associated with a sense of heightened relaxation and suggestibility. These states of mind are not in themselves negative; however, we will find ourselves in a state where our mental defenses are lowered and we will be open to suggestion. For this reason it is important to meditate in a safe place with people around us that we trust. This can make it difficult to find new groups to meditate with and sometimes it can be better to simply meditate alone.

Love, @happyops