In 1996 the administration of Sera-Je Monastery in south India, wrote Ven. Geshe Kelsang Gyatso ‘a letter of expulsion‘ from the monastery. While in Tibet, Geshe Kelsang had studied at Sera-Je Monastery near Lhasa, but later did not have any connection with the monastery, even after it was re-located in south India. Geshe Kelsang was later asked:
Geshe-la, in the letter from the people of Sera-Je, it says that you were expelled from the monastery. Are you upset about this?
And he replied:
No, I am not upset. I had already stopped my affiliation with Sera-Je twenty years ago and had no intention of renewing it. So, I feel this doesn’t make any sense.
The reason for Sera Je Monastery’s letter against Geshe Kelsang was his outspoken criticism of the Dalai Lama’s ban against Dorje Shugden practice. James Belither, who was the New Kadampa Tradition (NKT) Secretary at the time, said:
The campaign to discredit Geshe Kelsang is clearly a deliberate attempt to silence him and act as a warning to others. As a Tibetan Lama in America he told another Lama living in Germany that he was planning to take public action against the Dalai Lama’s censorship “No, you can’t do that, you mustn’t. They will do to you what they did to Geshe Kelsang. What does it mean to be “expelled” from an institution where you studied? This will not detract from your years of study and meditation or detract from your spiritual qualifications. From this we can see that expulsion is simply a political action and an empty gesture.
Sera-Je is a Gelugpa monastery. Geshe Kelsang cannot be excommunicated from the Gelug tradition because it is not a club; Gelugpas are those who follow the teachings of Je Tsongkhapa, and Geshe Kelsang devoted his life to upholding and propagating those teachings.
Labelling the New Kadampa Tradition a cult
The accusation of cult was also made to stick quite convincingly by the Tibetan Government in Exile when they issued this politically motivated letter expelling Geshe Kelsang from Sera Je Monastery. This letter, intended to 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 standing up to the Dalai Lama’s ban and pose a serious obstacle to the growth of the NKT (which, unlike Tibetan Buddhist groups, is not under their control). To this day, Tibetan followers of the Dalai Lama unfortunately routinely refer to the NKT as a cult and demon-worshippers.
See also: Is Geshe Kelsang Gyatso a real Geshe?