Probably the most prolific critic and active Western campaigner against the New Kadampa Tradition (NKT), who in recent years has taken to criticizing many other Mahayana Buddhist traditions as well, is an ex-NKT monk called Tenzin Peljor. (Aka Kelsang Tashi, KT66, and Michael Jackel.)
Tenzin Peljor’s involvement with the NKT
Tenzin Peljor is an East German who was originally ordained as a monk (Kelsang Tashi) by Ven. Geshe Kelsang Gyatso. However, his allegiance was not to Geshe Kelsang but to a self-styled Lama called Dechen/Carola in Germany, who broke away from Ven. Geshe Kelsang and the NKT and started a personality cult. Ven Geshe Kelsang said in 2001:
Last year for example, Dipankara Centre had fourteen ordained Sangha, all ordained by me, including the Teacher herself. It showed a strong aspect or interest. They believed the main teacher, so they left me. … When we separated Dipankara Centre from Carola, all the Sangha went with her… I don’t remember any single point when I caused them any upset. The only thing is when Carola asked me to recognize her as a tulku. I couldn’t do this because people are not stupid! I fulfilled all her other wishes. This was the only wish I could not fulfil. Last year she said at least three Tibetan Lamas had recognized her as a tulku, and said ‘You are my Spiritual Guide, Geshe-la, so please now recognize me as a tulku, and get the NKT to accept.’ I replied ‘You shouldn’t say this to me. This is impossible. According to the Tibetan tradition there is no single tulku who is recognized at the age of 40 or 50!” … Now we understand that her real aim was to take all the resources of the centre, including the castle, from me and the NKT.
Kelsang Tashi/Tenzin Peljor was Carola’s right-hand man, who helped her remove the center and its assets (a castle) in Berlin from the NKT. Geshe Kelsang continued:
Recently I checked with Gangchen Lama, Kundaling Lama, and Tritrul Rinpoche. In the letter he faxed, Gangchen Rinpoche said, ‘I did not recognize Carola as a tulku — never. There is no evidence to prove this. I advised her “You must rely on Geshe-la, as he is your Spiritual Guide. Without Geshe-la’s acceptance, you must never do this.’” Kundaling Rinpoche also from his side did not recognize Carola – never. Later I asked Tonglam, who speaks Chinese, to telephone Tritrul Rinpoche, and ask him my question ‘Did you recognize Carola as a tulku or Lama?’ He replied, ‘Never. I never supported her. I told her many times “You should go on a long purification retreat and make confession to Geshe-la because he is your Vajra Tantric Spiritual Guide. She requested me to give her a special paper with a stamp to show that she was a tulku, but I did not accept this.”‘
She has harmed herself and her students. Recently her new centre — Dharmakaya — printed new sadhanas for sale. All these sadhanas are mostly copied from our sadhanas. Some horrible things have happened because of her motivation. Due to obstacles, this can happen to even a person who is normally good, so you therefore need these Internal Rules.
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 and Tashi/Tenzin’s organization kept the castle for a while. Finally, due to them going bankrupt, the castle was returned back to the NKT and is called Tharpaland Kadampa Meditationszentrum.
A few years after leaving with Carola, Tashi finally got disillusioned, left Carola, re-ordained as Tenzin Peljor with the Dalai Lama, and joined the FPMT for a while.
Tenzin Peljor’s activities
As for Tenzin Peljor’s activities, he used to be very active on the New Kadampa Survivors’ site. He helps to moderate E-Sangha and has a long history of posts against the NKT. He runs his own 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 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 more reliable sources and facts, those articles have gradually become more neutral and balanced, but kt66 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 has an extremely negative view of the NKT. His hostile views, though less strident, often appear in Wikipedia, Amazon book reviews, and elsewhere.
He wrote repeatedly to the BBC website and encouraged others to do so too, sending them old articles (e.g. the Guardian article from 1996) and telling 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 let it be widely known that INFORM (an organization in Britain that tracks New Religious Movements [NRMs]) was writing a report against the NKT thanks to him getting people to write to them with their stories. He said he planned on posting this report all over the Internet. However, after INFORM contacted the NKT they reflected a more balanced viewpoint, saying they had received reports but there was nothing to suggest that the NKT is an NRM (or a cult). Nevertheless, to this day Tenzin Peljor still brings up INFORM in his interviews. See also Why do some people say that the New Kadampa Tradition is a New Religious Movement?
In recent years, Tenzin Peljor has turned his attention more to criticizing other Mahayana Buddhist teachers, including his former teachers in the FPMT; but he uses the same NKT origin story in his interviews. In his exaggerations, distortions, falsehoods, and relentless campaign to discredit the New Kadampa Tradition, Tenzin Peljor has caused untold damage.