Welcome to the New Kadampa Tradition Info site.
The New Kadampa Tradition (NKT) is a popular worldwide Buddhist organization with 1200+ Centers and tens of thousands of practitioners, and there are many websites that explain it, including the main site: Kadampa.org. If you type in “meditationinYourCity” or “meditateinYourCity”, you’ll likely find a local Center website. There is also a short bio here: What is the New Kadampa Tradition (in brief).
We fully understand that there is a fair amount of negative information circulating on the internet about the NKT, much of it from the 1990s. So, as well as sharing some general information on this tradition, the purpose of this website is to transparently and honestly address the main criticisms, both the valid and invalid ones. Click on any topic to get started. And feel free to leave comments or questions.
There have been heavy and inaccurate criticisms against the NKT, and people have accused us relentlessly online for years of being a cult, spirit or demon worshippers, non-Buddhists, and so on. These accusations have set the tone for subsequent criticism, even the criticism that has some truth in it. For why this started happening back in the 1990s, please scroll down to Background below.
Sometimes, as with any religion and tradition, people with a different agenda have also twisted Buddha’s teachings into something they are not; so we also try to address some of these misunderstandings.
Apologies and thank you’s
Before we dive into the site, we have some apologies and thank you’s that need to be made.
We are a new creation in the modern world – bringing the ancient Kadampa wisdom passed down from Atisha and Je Tsongkhapa into people’s busy modern lives. When Venerable Geshe Kelsang Gyatso, our founder and Spiritual Guide, first arrived in the West in the 1970s, Buddhism was new to the West. And the NKT openly admits that some Center managers and individuals made mistakes over the last 30+ years, some trivial but some serious.
We are truly sorry for all instances of heavy-handed or inappropriate behavior from managers and others. We’re concerned about any unskillful actions that have led to some people having bad experiences. This of course has never been the NKT’s wish or intention.
We are also grateful for the feedback insofar as addressing these problems has gradually made us a stronger, gentler, kinder, and more qualified organization. A lot of the people who criticize the NKT even have the wish and intention to make it better, and this is a real kindness. Since 2001 the NKT has been following A Moral Discipline Guide ~ The Internal Rules of the New Kadampa Tradition, which has made the organization and Centers accountable, democratic, and transparent.
Please contact us
If you have any concerns or complaints about the NKT-IKBU, we invite you to contact us and explain. We commit to looking into your concerns, making amends where possible, and, if necessary, putting into place procedures to ensure that similar concerns don’t happen again. Please email [email protected], and ask for one of the two Education Council representatives.
As mentioned above, some criticisms of the NKT over the years are valid, and taking them seriously has already helped the organization to improve a great deal and become more and more open, kind-hearted, democratic, and modern as the years have rolled on, including with the introduction of the Internal Rules.
However, there are many criticisms that are not valid, and one main purpose of this site is to fact-check allegations, claims, and criticisms against the NKT that can be found online.
Many of these criticisms arose because NKT students protested in the 1990s to the Dalai Lama’s ban of the popular Buddhist practice of Dorje Shugden. This ban brought about oppression and slander of Gelugpa and Kadampa Buddhist practitioners in India and the West. For why NKT students decided to help Dorje Shugden practitioners in the Tibetan exile community and elsewhere, see:
Although the Dalai Lama later rescinded this ban and the source of the problem therefore largely went away, internet slander has a long shelf life and bad publicity drives traffic. Thanks to clickbait, ranked search engine terms in particular can give a seriously distorted first impression of this Buddhist organization. Also, regardless of what we say or do, if somebody is determined to misunderstand, they will misunderstand and misinterpret anything.
A broader perspective
When new people encounter the criticisms, it can cause them to stay away from the NKT. When people who have been enjoying NKT centers and classes encounter these perspectives, it can trigger crises of doubt, sometimes resulting in them leaving the tradition. This is very sad because Kadampa teachings offer genuine solutions to everyday problems and improve the wellbeing of many people. The vast majority of people, however, have a good experience with the NKT and work their way through any doubts because it doesn’t correspond with their lived experience.
This is why we think it is important to put things in perspective. There have been hundreds of thousands of people who have attended NKT centers over the last 30 years, millions who have read Venerable Geshe-la’s books, and steady growth year after year. So many people have received immense benefit from their experience with the NKT. While some people have had negative experiences, the overwhelming majority have not.
You can find some testimonials here.
Investigating for ourselves
Our hope with this website is to openly share information and perspective on the criticisms individually, and try and help people work through any doubts that might arise when they read negative things about us. Buddha said, “Don’t believe me because I’m called Buddha, investigate for yourself.” He encouraged people to check carefully and come to their own conclusions — it is not up to anybody else to tell us how we should think. Every spiritual tradition will have its critics, but also its adherents. In that spirit we suggest you read, if you must, the perspectives of the critics, talk with practitioners, share your own stories, and, most importantly, trust your own lived experience of the NKT.
Please also ask us questions on this site!
This website was created by senior students of the New Kadampa Tradition ~ International Kadampa Buddhist Union (NKT-IKBU), 2006, updated 2023.