A cult or not a cult that is the question.
- It is all too easy to blame one organisation for all our problems, just like we would love to say our parents are at fault for all our bad character traits. I am as tempted to leave the blame at Nkt' s door as easily as the milkman leaves the silver top, but as a Buddhist I cannot in all conscious do this I have to accept my share of responsibility and I do wish to give as balanced a view as possible as to this organisations triumphs and failings.
A old friend of mine told me they felt the Nkt was a benevolent cult if it was to be named a cult. I can only say to this that the Nkt certainly believes itself to be benevolent and all those involved have this same view. I myself had this view for nearly 10 years and for someone desperate to find some good to do in the world it was not hard for me to maintain such a position regardless of some of the things I witnessed and rumours I heard over we the years. I was a very lonely damaged individual when I found the NKT and at only 26 I had walked out on my first marriage and over night Lost family I had grown to
I was also recovering from a long hospital stay so was weak and not fit for any physical work but I received nothing but understanding about this, the one thing I could never deny was the kindness I recieved in my first year by the strange mix of people that took shelter in the Buddhist centre, I say took shelter for this is how it felt, a place for some of the damaged and eccentric people to hide away for a while. The different mix of people was extraordinary, myself I suppose included, most people I think felt they didn't quite fit somewhere else, or were hiding from some aspect of their life too painful to face and for this purpose the centre could not have been more perfect.
It was not only the people that attracted me though, it was the clear and precise nature of the teachings that seemed so logical to me and so easy to understand, I felt I had found the reasons for all of my suffering and the solution indeed the centre's ethos,'Find Happiness from a different source' Well for me any happiness would do.
At first glance the book's by GKG are amazing,clear presentations of Buddha's teachings,I say this but to be honest I' d read very little other Buddhist texts. I wasn't one to judge I joined the foundation study program very early on once I'd moved in and I loved studying. I meditated everyday did regular prayers and tried to the best of my ability to practice the teachings on a daily basis. After 6 months I took on my own class to teach which felt too soon but as I' 've said this was an honour I couldn't refuse. I loved teaching, despite my initial nerves it made me feel special. After each class though I couldn' t help wondering what help I Could possibly be to others. By now I was in awe of it all and I brought into the whole illusion of Geshe- la. Some were very open about him being a Buddha others held back their opinion. Trying though to be a member of the NKT and not be in love or involved with GKG was almost impossible,he was everywhere, I Mean everything had come from him,the books,the study programmes,his pictures were everywhere he even told you how to set up your own shrine. Nothing was left to chance,in part this was comfortable you could almost flick the off switch on your mind,it felt easy,a relief. For a long time I felt a sense of security but slowly as the years passed I began to feel stuck. There were so many teachings it was tough to know what to practise from day to day, I felt my old anger and resentments still there. Basically I felt I wasn't making any progress.I wasn't getting any happier.
When I Ordained as a Buddhist nun after just a year in the Tradition I had the same feeling running through me that had been present at my first wedding, I was running away again but this time it felt to something good something pure.
I wanted so badly to change and herein lies the problem,the whole focus of NKT was to change, this idea we were all contaminated and only kadam Dharma could clean us, it felt very Catholic, very original sin. Ordination made me feel even more pressure,people looked at me in a different light I felt I had to live up to others expectations and they were often grossly exajerated. After 10 years I felt I had got no where I felt as lost and unhappy as day one so what was the point? and deep down I knew I wanted a family a normal life. I had tried hard to change myself but without success so I knew something was very wrong but I couldn't figure it out. Once I left it started to be more clear my inability to relate to non NKT people, my lack of wisdom and my black and white view of the world. Basically for 10 years I'd been told how to think,what was the right way to think and feel, even what doubts were ok and which were not. I had my opinions spoon fed to me, I hadn't developed at all I just had a mind full of NKT information and nothing that belonged to me. I had stopped listening to myself, I had stopped trusting my instincts. Well why would I, as my teacher once told me your nothing and no one. For a girl who had been brought up with this issue of low self esteem having it confirmed for me was hardly likely to boast my confidence.
I suppose I thought the robes were a great place to hide and for a while they were but everyday I wore them was another day I felt a fraud. I didn't feel positive change occurring I Just felt my insecurities feeding away at me and my old patterns of wanting attention and love emerged and were time and time crushed by an insensitive teacher who was too much of a loner to be able to relate to or help anyone. The more I looked around me the more I realised I wasn't alone in my centre there were so many lost people. Those with Matrydom issues using the teachings to beat themselves up, low self esteem.depression. women in abusive relationships. The list of unhappy people went on, if you asked them they would tell you they had never been happier because we all do, whether it's an abusive relationship or an abusive tradition none of us want to admit the truth that we made a mistake and must keep searching.
SO in conclusion is the New Kadampa Tradition a cult or not. I have read a lot of definitions of cults over the last month according to some it is to others it is not but I realised writting this that cult or not isn't the real question to be asked. The more important question is, is it harmful or not? I had both good and bad experiences in the nkt but spiritually I cannot say in all honesty that I developed. I found a place to hide from the world for 10 years and for that I can be grateful but it was not what I needed. The Nkt ethos is happiness from another source and that I do not believe they can provide even if they wanted to because their leader does not understand the western psychology enough to shape the teachings for us and if I'm honest I don't think he wishes too. He has his empire and I think he has his happiness and that for him I believe is enough. For Geshe Kelsang GYatso the only thing that really matters is the spreading of his brand of Kadam Dharma this he and his minions are good at and as long as you tow the party line,don't ask the wrong questions and spread the word it's all fine but cross GKG and you"'ll see a very different Side to the humble monk. It is odd is it not how much we were asked to give to a small tibetan monk we would never be likely to meet. I have always found it easier to understand those who big up themselves up rather than those who self deappreciate.And the unfairest part of all, the NKT promise you happiness but if you do not get what has been put on offer the only one to blame it seems is yourself,the NKT never have and I suspect never will be prepared to even share some of the blame with it's unhappy members present and old. My old instincts pre Nkt would have smelt a humble rat maybe I should have listened to them, but unfortunately I was very lonely and vulnerable when I first found this tradition, I wish I had though because after all no Guru is a match for female intuition if we learn to listen to it that indeed is the only Guru we truly need to develop and bow down to not a stranger with a funny hat who has put himself on a self appointed throne very humble!