As of 2023, the New Kadampa Tradition ~ International Kadampa Buddhist Union (NKT~IKBU) is an international association of over 1200 study and meditation Centers in 40+ countries throughout the world. One of the fastest-growing grassroots Buddhist traditions in the world, the NKT aims to bring Buddha Shakyamuni’s teachings to a modern-day audience, making them accessible and practical for new students as well as experienced practitioners.
Kadampa Buddhism was first established by Indian Buddhist master Atisha (982-1054 CE), who reintroduced Buddha’s original teachings into 11th century Tibet at the request of the Tibetan King Jangchub O. “Ka” refers to Buddha’s teachings of Sutra and Tantra, and “dam” to Lamrim, Atisha’s special presentation of these teachings, known in English as “the stages of the path to enlightenment”. A “Kadampa” is a practitioner who takes Buddha’s teachings as personal advice and puts them into practice in their daily lives by following the instructions of Lamrim.
Introduced to the modern world by Tibetan-born (and naturalized British and US citizen) meditation master Venerable Geshe Kelsang Gyatso, the NKT~IKBU follows the tradition of Mahayana Buddhism as taught by Atisha and Tibetan Buddhist master Je Tsongkhapa (1357-1419 CE). The tradition was passed in an unbroken lineage (transmitted from realized teacher to student) from Je Tsongkhapa through the generations to Je Phabongkhapa (1878-1941 CE), and finally to Vajradhara Trijang Rinpoche (1901-1981 CE), the teacher of Geshe Kelsang Gyatso, and to Trijang Rinpoche’s close disciples, including Geshe Kelsang Gyatso himself.
The NKT closely follows the original intention of Atisha’s presentation, and that of Je Tsongkhapa who revitalized the practice of Kadampa Buddhism in 13th century Tibet, further clarifying the presentation and setting a pure example of systematic study and moral discipline for his followers, who became known as “new Kadampas” or ‘Gelugpas” (the “Virtuous Tradition”).
The NKT, as introduced by Geshe Kelsang Gyatso, brings these instructions into a modern vernacular, aiming to integrate Buddha’s teachings into a cohesive system of study and practice designed for people with modern lives and fitting into their indigenous culture. With three distinct Study Programs (General Program, Foundation Program and Teacher Training Program) offered at Centers internationally, the NKT offers classes at different levels, appealing to those seeking practical advice for daily living as well as to those wishing to deepen their experience of Buddhist practice through formal study and meditation.
The NKT~IKBU holds three International Dharma Festivals throughout the year, attracting thousands of visitors, with national and regional Festivals and Dharma Celebrations held in many countries. Almost 300 Resident Teachers (at present) from Centers throughout the world participate in the International Teacher Training Program (ITTP) each Summer. There are currently over 700 Buddhist monks and nuns in the NKT. The ITTP and TTP (Teacher Training Program) produce many ordained and lay Buddhist teachers to lead Centers and branch classes in their own communities.
The NKT~IKBU is an international non-profit organization registered in England as a charitable company. Through the International Temples Project, established in the early nineties, the NKT~IKBU has built large Kadampa Buddhist Temples for World Peace in the UK, the United States, Brazil, Portugal, and Spain, with plans for additional Temples in France and then other parts of the world. The project is funded entirely by voluntary donations and by revenue from International Buddhist Festivals.
There are Kadampa International Retreat Centers in Germany, Switzerland, the UK, and America, with people engaged in short and long-term retreats.
Tharpa Publications — the publishing arm of the NKT — has published 23 NKT Dharma books by Geshe Kelsang Gyatso, now translated into several languages, including accessible and highly regarded books on meditation and Buddhist teachings, including detailed commentaries to traditional Buddhist texts.
Most NKT~IKBU Centers and other facilities are operated by a group of sponsored employees receiving a stipend for their work and many volunteers. All Temples and NKT Centers are open to the public for individual and group visits, and many Centers work closely with their communities through school programs, branch classes, prison programs, hospice programs, and other special outreach programs.
You are welcome to visit any NKT~IKBU Center any time you wish. Please see the official website Kadampa.org for a list of Centers and other information. (Pictured is the International Kadampa Retreat Center Grand Canyon).