The Dalai Lama and Tibetan Government in Exile
It was sadly the 14th Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso, his Government in Exile, and his followers who began the process of tarnishing the New Kadampa Tradition's name following the Dalai Lama’s sectarian ban of the practice of Dorje Shugden amongst Tibetans in 1996. When the Shugden Supporters Society, including NKT members, began to hold public protests again the ban on behalf of the Tibetans, two British newspapers (The Guardian and The Independent) published biased and damaging articles about the dispute, written by two journalist friends. Instead of offering a neutral, factual point of view that focused on the real issues of the Dalai Lama’s involvement and the worsening situation in India, the two articles were sensational tabloid-style stories about the NKT. The source of the journalists’ misinformation was Buddhist teachers within the Tibetan tradition, and, at least in the case of Madeleine Bunting, her own admitted personal bias toward the Dalai Lama. These articles have since been widely propagated by the Tibetan Government in Exile through their website, naturally without the counterpoint of the NKT’s refutations.
The demonstrations against the Dalai Lama's religious persecution were quickly followed by an article in the American Newsweek magazine in which the Dalai Lama and Robert Thurman retaliated by branding the practice of Shugden as a cult. This view was adopted by those sympathetic to the Dalai Lama and gradually, by association, the NKT was falsely branded as a cult in numerous internet posts by these followers.
Capitalizing on this, the accusation of cult was made to stick more convincingly by the Tibetan Government in Exile when they issued a politically motivated letter expelling Geshe Kelsang from Sera Je Monastery. Tibetan politics, especially as mixed with religion, are no stranger to medieval intrigue and corruption. This curious piece of agitprop, which was intended to punish and ostracize Geshe Kelsang, is full of strong accusatory language and numerous references to 'cult', 'cultists' and 'cult leader'. Through these actions, the Tibetan Government in Exile intended that the cult label would stick to punish Geshe Kelsang for daring to disagree with the Dalai Lama and pose a serious obstacle to the growth of the NKT (which, unlike Tibetan Buddhist groups, is not under their control).
A detailed history of all this is given in this four-part article.
Foundation for the Preservation of the Mahayana Tradition (FPMT)
According to the FPMT website, the Dalai Lama is the “Inspiration & Guide of the FPMT”. He uses the FPMT as a kind of proxy for him in the West, monitoring, marginalizing and ostracizing Wisdom Buddha Dorje Shugden practitioners, including the NKT.
Most of the FPMT (with a few notable exceptions) have seemingly unquestioningly adopted the Dalai Lama's superstitious, sectarian view on Dorje Shugden by adoping various discriminatory policies: (1) no one who holds any position in the FPMT organization is a Dorje Shugden practitioner, (2) those who seek ordination within FPMT are also not worshipping this Wisdom Buddha, and, (3) most recently, that Buddhist Dorje Shugden practitioners may not even attend teachings within the FPMT!
According to one testimonial received from an NKT member in Boston:
"We were constantly hearing feedback from General Program students about how they were told by the FPMTers that we who attended NKT centers were not Buddhists, we were a money making cult, we had no authority to teach, our ordinations were not real, Geshe Kelsang was an evil wizard leading us all into hell … you get the idea."
It appears that some FPMT students feel justified by the Dalai Lama’s own words and behavior to engage in speech that is hurtful, damaging and incorrect. Some in particular -- such as Tenzin Peljor (see below), Chris Kolb and Nick Ribush -- have actively attempted to damage or destroy the New Kadampa Tradition ~ International Kadampa Buddhist Union (NKT-IKBU) through prolific posting of smears, negative campaigning, blogging, virulent messages on chat groups and repetition of the same allegations and innuendos, following the Dalai Lama’s lead.
With tragic irony, the original inspiration & guide of the FPMT is its Founder, the late Lama Yeshe, who relied upon Protector Dorje Shugden his whole life. Lama Yeshe was no spirit worshipper. Lama Yeshe's wish in establishing the FPMT was to spread Dharma in the West, a wish that the New Kadampa Tradition is fulfilling. There is no conflict between Lama Yeshe's and Geshe Kelsang's intentions, and they were close friends and peers who regularly engaged in Gelugpa spiritual practice together, including monthly Dorje Shugden pujas. Moreover, over half of the lineage Gurus listed on the FPMT website were devoted disciples of Je Phabongkhapa and/or Trijang Dorjechang, as well as Dorje Shugden practitioners. So why is the FPMT attacking this lineage, including the NKT? It can only be because FPMT members have, unwittingly or not, become a political tool of the Dalai Lama's to fulfill his wish to destroy this tradition. Is this any way to repay Lama Yeshe's kindness? Not according to at least one practitioner, senior FPMT monk, Yeshe Sangye.
The FPMT, as well as some other Tibetan Buddhist groups loyal to the Dalai Lama, have been involved in unpleasant behavioral incidents against NKT members, ostracizing them at gatherings, shouting at them, persuading members to leave, making hand mudras or gestures and chanting to ward off their evil if they so much as bump into them, removing and defacing their publicity, and so on. There are now hundreds of testimonials that attest to this weird, superstitious and bad-mannered behavior.
This smear campaign against NKT-IKBU has remained steadily in place over the years. It has become very intense since the Kadampa Buddhist tradition pushed back against the Dalai Lama's calculated and uncompassionate political campaign of religious discrimination and intolerance against Wisdom Buddha Dorje Shugden practitioners in India by supporting the Western Shugden Society. See:
Sadness & Irony
Lama Yeshe & Lama Zopa (pictured), founders of FPMT, are disciples of their root Spiritual Guide Kyabje Trijang Rinpoche (1901-1981). Kyabje Trijang Rinpoche widely propagated the practice of Wisdom Buddha Dorje Shugden throughout his life. Lama Yeshe engaged in this practice every day. Lama Zopa engaged in the practice until his Guru, Lama Yeshe, passed away in the early 1980s. Now the Dalai Lama has banned this practice and orchestrated a smear campaign against Dorje Shugden practitioners. It is tragic that Lama Yeshe & Lama Zopa's own students are now the ones most actively involved in smearing Dorje Shugden practitioners in the West.
Who's Smearing Who?
Here's an interesting exercise for you. Go to an FPMT Center or another Tibetan Buddhist group that is loyal to the Dalai Lama. Even just run into them at a social gathering. Mention that you have been to an NKT Center or that your teacher is Geshe Kelsang. If the evidence of hundreds of testimonials is to be believed, you will be given horrified looks and either the people will step away from you hurriedly or they will give you extensive disinformation about the NKT, tell you that you are a spirit worshipper who harms others’ lives (even if you have never worshipped a spirit in your life and have dedicated your life to helping others), and strongly advise you never to return to the NKT Center. Now do the opposite -- go to an NKT Center and say you have been to an FPMT Center. You will hear no criticism of FPMT or any other Buddhist tradition at the NKT Center.
Latest Development -- FPMT's New Segregation Policy
From the FPMT website: "Restriction: FPMT has recently issued a new policy regarding the Shugden practice in accordance with the wishes of His Holiness the Dalai Lama. Lama Zopa Rinpoche has expressed the wish "not to have a guru-disciple relationship with anyone who is practicing Shugden."
Since Lama Zopa is still the nominal head of the FPMT, this means that Tibetan politics has now irreversibly permeated the FPMT. It means that not even Lama Zopa's precious teachers, Trijang Rinpoche or Lama Yeshe, would be allowed to attend Lama Zopa's teachings. This tragic state of affairs has been explained in detail by a senior FPMT monk, Yeshe Sangye.
FPMT members have long accused the NKT of being a sectarian cult. The irony is that the NKT is an open and tolerant organization that has never turned anyone away from a teaching due to their religious beliefs. That this religious belief is the 400-year old practice passed down through generations of fully accomplished Buddhist masters, including half the lineage Gurus of the FPMT, is beyond comprehension.
Meanwhile, it is unclear whether or not Lama Osel (the reincarnation of Lama Yeshe) would countenance this latest extraordinary development. He has kept his distance from the FPMT for the last few years, and recently disrobed. The de facto head of the FPMT is now the Dalai Lama.
Most Prolific Internet Smears Against the NKT
These organizations and individuals are responsible for the most prolific anti-NKT postings on the web. We have included them here because they have caused material damage to the NKT-IKBU by undermining its reputation; and between them have destroyed the faith of hundreds, perhaps thousands, of individuals. People therefore have a right to protect themselves by knowing who they are. If their anti-NKT opinions and misinformation were not everywhere on the Internet, the smears against the NKT would drop by an estimated two-thirds or more. (The information compiled about them here is publicly available elsewhere on the Internet.)
1. Blogs, websites, Wikipedia, chat groups etc containing anti-NKT postings by Tenzin Peljor (aka KT66; aka Tashi; aka Michael Jackel)
3. New Kadampa Survivors
4. Other (not FPMT) Tibetan Buddhist groups
Blogs, websites, Wikipedia, chat groups etc containing anti-NKT postings by Tenzin Peljor (aka KT66; aka Tashi; aka Michael Jackel). Tenzin Peljor has been given a special section on this page as he has been the most prolific Western campaigner against the NKT. an East German monk living at the FPMT Istituto Lama Tzong Khapa in Pomaia, Italy. He claimed recently that he is a Kagyu, and that he is "very independent"; but he is studying full-time on the FPMT's Geshe Program (when he is not busy attacking the NKT).
He was originally ordained as a monk (Kelsang Tashi) by Geshe Kelsang. However, his main allegiance was not to Geshe Kelsang but to a self-styled Lama called Dechen/Carola in Germany (who broke away from Geshe Kelsang and the NKT and started a personality cult). He was her right-hand man, who helped her remove the center and its assets (a castle) in Berlin from the NKT. A lengthy legal case followed and was found by a German court in favor of the NKT. However, the decision was unenforceable in German charity law so Carola's organization kept the castle for a while. Finally, due to them going bankrupt, the castle is now back with the NKT and running as a Dharma Center.
A few years after leaving with Carola, Tashi finally got disillusioned, left Carola and re-ordained as Tenzin Peljor with the Dalai Lama. There seems little doubt that he feels justified in his obsessive campaign against the NKT due to his loyalty to the Dalai Lama and disorientating personal history with Carola.
As for his activities, he has been very active on the New Kadampa Survivors' site under his new name Tenzin Peljor, where he can be seen clearly to manipulate people to cause them to lose their faith, and siding with David Cutshaw (see below) and others to encourage worse and worse verbal attacks on the NKT. He helps to moderate E-Sangha and has a long history of posts against the NKT. He runs his own defamatory websites and blogs against the NKT and Dorje Shugden practitioners. His Flickr account was shut down for going against their terms of service by storing defamatory material.
On Wikipedia he was the dominant editor for years, responsible for the weighted bias against the NKT on the articles: New Kadampa Tradition, Kelsang Gyatso, and Dorje Shugden. As kt66, he weaved his point of view throughout the article largely through spinning a supposed "neutral third-party source", a Lancaster university thesis by David Kay (who briefly attended NKT meditation classes in Lancaster), making Kay into the judge and jury of the NKT. These articles spread a lot of disinformation and pain while he was still their main editor. Many people have said they lost faith and many more have not tried out NKT meditation classes in the first place as a result of reading his version of Wikipedia and believing that, because it is an encyclopedia, Wikipedia must be neutral. Due to the introduction of reliable sources and facts, those articles have gradually become more neutral and balanced, but kt66 today still tries to use Wikipedia to push his own point of view. As can be seen on his own anti-Shugden websites and on various blogs (his own and others), Tenzin Peljor could not have a much lower opinion or a more extreme view of the NKT. His hostile views, though less strident, often appear disguised as passive aggression in Wikipedia, Amazon and elsewhere. When a number of independent reviewers looked at the article kt66 created, they concluded also that it violated NPOV (neutral point of view). Please see their comments here.
He has written hostile book reviews on Amazon. He wrote repeatedly to the BBC website and encouraged others to do so too, bombarding them with old articles (e.g. the Guardian article from 1996, long-since discredited as an unworthy piece of tabloid journalism from which no mud stuck) to tell them to include the word "cult" on their website. Eventually in one place they did add it even though there is no explanation of how or why the NKT is a cult and the rest of their description is fair and would seem to suggest the opposite, that the NKT is a time-honored Mahayana Buddhism tradition.
He posts almost daily under his different names (including just Mike or Michael) on different blogs and news outlets.
He boasts about how INFORM (an organization in Britain that tracks New Religious Movements) was writing a report against the NKT thanks to him getting people writing to them with their stories. He says he plans on posting this report all over the Internet. Luckily INFORM have been in communication with the NKT to reflect a more balanced viewpoint and have said they do not view the NKT as an NRM or cult. He has written in extensively to the Rick Ross cult forum to try and get the NKT indicted as a cult (and then disingenuously refers readers elsewhere to that forum).
Namdrol (Malcolm Smith), a principal moderator of E-Sangha, banned the NKT from E-Sangha, that supposedly "open" and "non-sectarian" Buddhist chat forum, effectively branding them as non-Buddhist. He also bars any positive discussion of NKT or Dorje Shugden, calling them degenerate spirit worshippers, in what amounts to a superstitious modern witch-hunt. Criticism of the NKT and Geshe Kelsang is always welcome though. Namdrol has posted many arrogant, irrational and deeply sectarian comments against the NKT, the lineage of Je Phabongkhapa and Trijang Rinpoche, and the Gelugpa tradition. People relatively new to Buddhism are often taken in by him because he trumpets his qualifications of having been a Buddhist for 20 years and knowing Tibetan and, as one contributor pointed out, E-Sangha is "his sandpit" where his view must hold sway (those who disagree are quickly and quietly banned). This statement explains why Namdrol has done these things and been a persistent source of misinformation and propaganda:
"My Guru, the late Ngagpa Yeshe Dorje [1926-1993], was personally appointed by the present Dalai Lama to control this spirit in Dharamsala. In that vein, I feel responsible to continue to point out the defects of this practice and the lineage associated with it, and point out alternatives for those who have the ears to hear."
For an explanation of how the NKT and Dorje Shugden practitioners came to be banned from E-Sangha, see E-Sangha and "sect bashing".
E-Sangha is currently being sued by Soto Zen priests who are also barred from E-Sangha for not fulfilling the exact doctrinal beliefs of the moderators of the site. Click here for a letter from them, which is sufficiently similar to E-Sangha's sectarianism and discrimination toward the NKT to be usefully quoted here.
Here also is a recent quote from the blog In Pursuit of Mysteries, whose non-NKT author has researched E-Sangha over time and concluded that E-Sangha has many problems, especially in misleadingly calling itself an open Buddhist forum:
E-sangha is a web forum that promotes itself as being for all Buddhists of all traditions of practice. It has a large base of users and, in fact, its number of users is large enough, over time, that the very number and amount of activity acts to pull in online Buddhists who hear about the site. In reality, E-sangha is a very unfriendly place for many Buddhists. It is run by a small junta of moderators with a bit of an iron fist (not even with the velvet glove!). This group brooks no disagreement with their beliefs or methods. Members of the forum who don't toe the line with great alacrity for this collective are quickly and quietly banned from the site.
Members of the moderator junta claim that they do what they do for the sake of Buddhism and the spread of the Dharma. In their opinion, incorrect beliefs or doctrines lead to trouble and confusion so their discussion is not allowed, even to show that they are wrong.
A new website called E-Sangha Watch has also been set up by "concerned Buddhist clergy and lay-persons of several schools.
See New Kadampa Survivors (continuation of the cult smear history) for more background on the Survivors' group.
The founder and moderator is David Cutshaw, who began attending classes at an NKT branch in Asheville, North Carolina. As David himself has said on various public forums, he has long suffered from bouts of mental illness, depression and irrational anger. He wrote to Geshe Kelsang about these problems and received some advice. He also received support from his teacher and the Sangha who would visit him in hospital. David attended the Kadampa teachings for three to four years and seemed to enjoy them and the friendship of the Sangha. However, he stopped attending the Center in 2005 after being told by FPMT students that Dorje Shugden was an evil spirit.
He was a prolific contributor to NKT Chat and expressed his concerns there. In response he received help and encouragement from his fellow NKT Sangha and seemed to be coming to terms with the issue, but then he discovered E-Sangha and read many negative postings about the NKT and Dorje Shugden (mainly posted by Namdrol, Thubten Gonpo and Tenzin Peljor). His mind changed and he started to post very critical comments about the NKT on E-Sangha, talking about 'the cult' and speaking of Geshe Kelsang and other Kadampa teachers in very harsh terms. By claiming to speak authoritatively as an 'insider', and because he was no longer involved with the NKT, David found an attentive audience eager to help him 'rehabilitate' after his 'terrible' experiences with the NKT cult. He has also spoken outright falsehoods on the Internet, for example accusing the NKT of making death threats against him.
David then went on to found the New Kadampa Survivors chat group. He has moderated that group closely, seeming to seek attention from the people who post on it by claiming the things they say as part of his own experience too and then building on it. He is not the only person to have made slanderous and preposterous claims about the NKT on the Survivors site, but as moderator he has never encouraged the slightest restraint, making this little better than a hate site. Maybe this is true for many Internet chat groups that develop a strange life of their own, but David never allows any pro-NKT comment (or even neutral ones) to be posted. When any friendly NKT remarks do inadvertently slip through, he attacks the sender, or cancels their membership by saying the group is not meant for "NKT propaganda".
David allows personal and private correspondence to be posted on the chat group against the law and the wishes of the individuals concerned. Yahoo! wanted him to tone the chat group down after they discovered the hate mongering, bad language and campaigning. He was unrepentant and said he would move all the postings to an MSN site for safe-keeping. He also uploaded a defamatory storage document called "NKT Media Files", stored on the survivors' site; and he supports every Survivor campaign against the NKT -- such as writing negative Amazon book reviews focusing on calling the NKT a devil-worshipping cult etc rather than the book (Amazon's legal department have now removed many of these reviews, for example those by Charles Miller).
Some people from other traditions who, it seems, have never been to an NKT Center have nevertheless taken advantage of this chat group to manipulate the opinions of the group further by slandering the NKT, its teachers and its practices and promote their own traditions and teachers -- VJ Kumara, Khedrub and Truthsquad to name a few.
Although the NKT has never claimed to be perfect and definitely makes mistakes, the NKT of the Survivors' group is not recognizable to most NKT students or their families and friends. Nevertheless, some individuals who come to the Survivors' group (a great proportion of whom have heard from various Tibetan groups or E-Sangha that the NKT are spirit worshippers or cultists and are trying to get to the bottom of this) believe the repeated lies, start to doubt, and then lose their faith entirely because they are unaware of the source of and motivation behind the postings.
(Note: Although the Survivors' group has a membership of 700+, it is a reliable estimate that about half of these are NKT practitioners who joined up out of curiosity to check what is being said about them, and have not as yet unsubscribed. Some of the people on the group have also joined under multiple names. Amongst actual participants, there are about twelve people who post almost all the comments, prompting complaints on the group about their "sheer relentlessness of output" and that the group has become like an "old boys' club". There is periodically also a lot of infighting, distrust, and name calling.)
See also this article.
Some other Tibetan Buddhist groups and teachers loyal to the Dalai Lama have also caused the NKT-IKBU terrible damage through their intolerant and sectarian behavior. For example, in 2008, when Namkhai Norbu was in America he turned to a student of his and asked whether he knew any Kadampas. This fellow had just met a General Program (GP) student at a dinner party, so he replied yes, and so Namkhai Norbu gave him a protection cord to ward off the evil. He instructed his student to warn the GP student against the NKT and Dorje Shugden and to give protection cords to her and any of her friends who also attended Kadampa classes.
The student of Namkhai Norbu continued to call the GP student several times, directing her to websites critical of the NKT. He relayed to her stories told to him personally by Namkhai Norbu in which bad things had happened to practitioners of Dorje Shugden, such as they became sick or their business failed; and he criticized the NKT, saying that our money came from the Chinese.
Another American Kadampa student was visiting her therapist for problems unrelated to her spiritual practice and was delighted to find he was a fellow Buddhist and developed trust in him. However, he was a student of Namkhai Norbu and before long told her that she needed protection from the "evil spirit" Dorje Shugden, who was causing her problems. Namkhai Norbu personally sent her a pendant to protect her and gave the therapist a pendant also since he had come into contact with her. Her faith shaken, she has subsequently left the NKT.
In Barcelona, a Kadampa student was told by several friends of his -- all students of Namkhai Norbu -- that the practice of Dorje Shugden is very evil and responsible for the sickness and misery of people he knew. They told him that his presence contaminated both them and the other people around him. As a result, when members of his family fell ill, he felt guilty. He suffered nightmares for many years, even as recently as 2008. He now attends the Kadampa Center only intermittently and suffers from paranoia.