NKT….Cult or Not??

August 23, 2008

The suggestion that the NKT is a cult is not a new thing, nor I’m sure will it be proven otherwise any time soon. Whenever I hear the word “cult” I associate it with a small group of people in a barn drinking cyanide or….. one of my favourite clothes shop’s. I certainly don’t associate the word with the New Kadampa Tradition.

In my helpful, over-large dictionary the definition of cult is – actually there are loads of definitions. Probably the most relevant to the type of cult I am discussing is “ A quasi-religious organisation using devious psychological techniques to gain and control adherents”. Ok, well, that is not my experience or view of the NKT, what I have been taught are Buddhist principles which focus around developing a recognition of impermanence and compassion.

As for cult like behaviour.. well yeah I think in the past there have been people who have behaved slightly cultish. I’m sure probably some of the time with good intention but just getting a bit lost along the way. I remember someone in one of the centres I lived in being over fond of starting their sentences with “Geshe-la says” I frequently replied “I wasn’t asking” I’m sure the person felt I was being down right rude, maybe I was, I don’t know, maybe partially annoyed at the person’s presumption that I have no idea what Geshe-la says in his books or have somehow forgotten at specific moments when I was not willing to engage in something someone else wanted. I do think this sort of behaviour needs to be pointed out and eradicated. However saying this I haven’t really experienced stuff like that in a long time. Thank Goodness!

The people who seem to be suggesting the NKT is a cult have written various stories and testimonies of those I have read there seems to be a few common threads, which I will mention. While I do sympathise with some of the people, I also have my own view and opinion from reading these. I’m sure now I am going to be labelled as the heartless Buddhist. Apparently certain people have been told not to read books by anyone other then Geshe-la and told to donate vast amounts of money to their centres etc etc.  I have to ask “ Why would you do this if it was something you didn’t want to do?” As these people went along with such actions, it seems to me like they are the ones acting very cult like indeed, having some fanatical view and allowing themselves to blindly follow. I have never experienced this sort of thing in my time in the NKT, I am not disputing that this has happened in the past, but I have to add, Had I experienced things similar to this I feel sure I would have simply said “No” if I felt uncomfortable or didn’t want to go along with what was being asked of me. Nowhere in any of Geshe-la’s books or teachings has he said we should blindly follow without questioning, in fact he explicitly says the opposite.

 I was thinking about this after reading the blog Faith, Reason and Doubt, on A New Kadampa Buddhist’s blog, I found this interesting as I don’t recall ever being scared to question anything within the tradition or teachings. I think it is fundamental to being able to develop a sincere practice. If I personally didn’t question the teachings I don’t think I would believe enough to practice them, I would think they were nice and made sense but that would be it, I think. I have to again point out that I don’t believe myself to be a pure and sincere practitioner as yet, but I am definitely trying!

Anyway aside from the above, a word that springs to mind is subjectivity. I am clearly not going to change the minds of people who have had bad experiences and subsequently have a bad view of the NKT and in the same way what those people write about the NKT is not going to change my positive view of the NKT. One thing I do hope though, is that if there are people new to Buddhism that want to visit NKT centres, I hope they are not put off by the experiences others have had. I hope they are able to go and find out for themselves if it is for them, or not.

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One Response to “NKT….Cult or Not??”

  1. Jonathan R. Says:

    All of these accusations by Tenzin Peljor and other Dalai Lama followers, claiming that the NKT is a cult, are just attempts to damage the reputation of the NKT.

    I believe even Tenzin Peljor knows that the NKT is not really a cult. He spreads a lot of lies about the NKT that were clearly refuted long ago.

    It’s just part of their smear campaign. The truth is gradually coming to the surface.


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