Who are we?
We are a group of people who have previously been involved with The New Kadampa Tradition (NKT-IKBU) and/or have supported those in recovery from involvement. Some of us are named below as contributors or supporters, however many do not feel safe enough to be named due to The New Kadampa Tradition’s history of attacking critics and testimony writers.
Dr Michelle Haslam is a clinical psychologist with over 8 years experience of working with people with complex attachment related difficulties and addictions. She is also an ex-resident of Nagarjuna Kadampa Meditation Centre who began whistleblowing in March 2019. Her most popular video is ‘How I believe the New Kadampa Tradition hooks you in through your trauma and then retraumatises you’. Michelle’s workplaces now remain confidential after attacks from senior New Kadampa Tradition members via her workplace the day after her psychological analysis of the NKT went viral. Michelle now has a special interest in indoctrination, cultic dynamics and cultic abuse. She is a member of the International Cultic Studies Association.
Andrea Ballance is an ex-ordained member of the NKT who left in 2003. She has been very keen to warn people about the NKT and the damage they can inflict on people. She has published many videos and articles on hers and others experiences. Her YouTube channels are here and here.
Carol McQuire is an ex-ordained member of The New Kadampa Tradition. She was a member for 12 years and ordained for 9 years. Carol has been a New Kadampa survivor activist for several years. Carol has a degree in Social Anthropology from Cambridge University. You can watch Carol speak here. One of her writings on the NKT is here. Being one of the first to speak strongly about her experiences, Carol has received and continues to receive extensive harrassment, threats and bullying from senior NKT members.
Geoffrey Bonn is an ex-ordained member of the NKT. He writes at Leaving the Sangha. Due to ill health Geoffrey doesn’t get to write as much as he would like to. He recently wrote a piece on the trolling received by ex-members.
Tenzin Peljor was a member of The New Kadampa Tradition for 4 years. He was a teacher and was ordained. He remains a monk but does not practice within the NKT. Tenzin runs various websites that assist people in finding information on abuse in Buddhist groups: info Buddhism and the Buddhism Controversies blog. He is a member of the German Buddhist Monastic Association (DBO). You can watch Tenzin talk with Michelle about his experience of indoctrination here and about recruitment here. Tenzins written testimony is here. Tenzin has suffered extensive character assassination as a result of his work. The NKT were successful in banning him from editing their Wikipedia page due to the argument that he had too much trauma to be trusted.
Carmelo Russo is an ex-resident of Nagarjuna Kadampa Meditation Centre and a retired mental health nurse. Carmelo’s video testimony is here.
Christian Szurko is a spiritual abuse recovery specialist who has worked with many ex-members of high demand groups, including the NKT. He is director of DialogueCentreUK, offering information, understanding and help about high-demand religious or political groups and the effects of involvement with them. Christian mentored Michelle during her whistleblowing process. Christian is especially interested in educating people about the potential dangers of practicing meditation within a cultic environment. You can see Michelle talk to Christian about recovery here. Chris Shelton interviews Christian on his channel Sensibly Speaking. Christian talks to Chris about first steps in helping someone out of a destructive group.
Matthew O’Connell is an ex-resident of an NKT centre. He has produced several podcasts sharing his opinion on the NKT and Buddhist cultic groups in general. You can listen to Tenzin speak with Matthew O’Connell in an Imperfect Buddha episode here. Matthew interviews Michelle here.
Eddie Nuttall is a play and playwork specialist and consultant with over 25 years experience in the children’s workforce. He is the author of numerous publications on play and playwork, and runs a large adventure playground in the West of England where he lives with his family. Eddie lived in NKT centres in the north West for three years in the nineties, and experienced severe depression and anxiety in the years after leaving. He is particularly interested in accountability over mental health issues in the NKT, and greater rigour in the safeguarding of vulnerable people. Eddie’s video testimony is here: Part 1 and Part 2. You can watch Eddie speak about NKT sectarianism here.
Dr Yuval Laor received his PhD in culture studies from Tel Aviv University, where he was supervised by leading evolutionary biologist Eva Jablonka. His dissertation explored the evolution of religious psychology, with an emphasis on evolutionary accounts of the human capacity for fervor and sudden conversion, and his subsequent work has focused on the nature of fervor. Yuval has published articles in the Journals of Religion Brain and Behavior and History and Theory. He is currently working on a book entitled The Religious Ape: What cults and fervor can teach us about the evolution of religion. You can watch Yuval talk with Michelle about fervor in The New Kadampa Tradition here.
Jon Atack, ex-scientologist, author and speaker. Jon is generally acknowledged as the world’s leading authority on the history of Scientology. He has contributed to over 200 media pieces, many government investigations and over 150 court cases. His work has been acknowledged by over 40 academics. Jon recently started his own YouTube channel with his son Sam, helping educate people on coercive control. You can watch Jon speak about spotting cult warning signs here. Jon interviews Michelle and speaks about NKT attacks on survivors here.
Adrian Oertli, psychotherapist and former left extremist group member. Adrian is involved in promoting nonviolence and cult education in the protest/alternative movement. He was recently interviewed by a journalist for the most widely read daily Newspaper in Switzerland (20 minutes) for an article on Extinction Rebellion. He speaks about how critical voices are shutdown within activist movements.
- Steve Hassan, former member of the Moonies and author of ‘Combatting Mind Control’ and ‘The Cult of Trump’
- Dr Alexandra Stein, social psychologist, cult specialist and author of ‘Love, Terror and Brainwashing’
- Emily Francis, ex-member
- Andrew Cheadle, ex-resident of Nagarjuna KMC
- Richard Litchfield, ex-member
- Gabriella Markgraf, ex-member
- Linda Ciardiello, ex-resident
- Recy Kypri, ex-member who sadly died in January 2020
- David Suppan, writer on ethics in spiritual groups
- Many others who do not wish to be named at the present time for safety reasons
What are our aims?
We aim to provide multimedia informational materials to assist people in making informed decisions about their involvement with the NKT. Michelle has written them with the support and advice of other ex-members, some of whom are named as contributers and some remain anonymous.
‘Thanks to the internet, I can now have a sense of fellowship with others who had nearly identical experiences. It wasn’t “all in my mind” after all‘Anonymous testimony ‘My NKT Hell‘
There are currently no face-to-face support groups for ex-members of the NKT specifically. However there a two support groups for ex-members of cultic groups via Family Survival Trust in Manchester and London. For details please email email@example.com.
According to Anders (2019) ex-members of so called ‘Buddhist’ groups often report that they needed immediate help upon leaving. Please note that many survivors report suicidality shortly before or after leaving and are at risk of homelessness due to economic abuse and exploitation (Anders, 2019). If you are experiencing a crisis or are worried about someone who might be, please seek support from any family and friends outside the NKT, your local crisis team, visit A&E or call a hotline such as The Samaritans. Sadly, many mental health professionals do not understand how cultic groups operate, but speaking to an outsider may still help validate your perception and intuition.
Any abusive and traumatic experience that you have suffered is likely to be reframed as just ‘your karma’ in order to deflect from the abuser and to silence trauma (Anders, 2019). Social support is the biggest predictor of recovery from trauma, however ex-members are likely to believe they should be able to ‘transform’ suffering entirely cognitively instead of through social support and empathy.
Sadly we are unable to provide practical or emotional support for those leaving the NKT on an individual basis, for personal and professional reasons (apart from via DialogueCentreUK). The Recovery from the NKT team work hard to try and raise awareness of how the NKT operates in mental health professionals and social workers however this has proved very challenging and has had limited success.
Haslam, M. (September 2021). Gaslighting, enabling and whitewashing of abuse in so called Buddhist sects. Conference presentation, Spiritual Abuse Conference, The University of Chester (online).
Haslam, M. (July, 2021). Psychosocial factors that make us vulnerable to recruitment into Buddhist cultic groups. Conference presentation, International Cultic Studies Association (online).
How can you help?
If you would like to submit a piece of writing on the NKT or be named as a supporter please email Michelle at firstname.lastname@example.org.
59 thoughts on “”
Wicked cool to see the new fearless awareness campaigns against this super controlling and creepy organization.
Those are two great adjectives to describe the NKT, in my opinion. I chose the above cartoon because I thought it captured those qualities perfectly. You must be happy, or else!
Well I see the response to this very in depth report is amazing to date.
The response has been amazing yes 🙂 it has been quite an emotional journey for a lot of us
Is there a support group for anyone who has left/leaving NKT?
There is the ‘Exposing The New Kadampa Tradition’ Facebook group but it’s not a safe therapeutic space. If you put a message there you can request to be added to a secret group for survivors. In terms of face to face therapeutic support, there is nothing yet. We are hoping to develop a recovery based website in the autumn
Thank you Michelle for continuing your educational work. May it safe many many spiritual seekers and human beings from the damage this high demand group can bring onto others!
” Someone can now pose as multiple people on public sites. Had “personal message” that was repeated word for word in person. Am afraid to join any groups. Narcissus may be female in many situations. Families and personal data on these sites may be researched. I’d think I’m nuts if I hadn’t gone through it.
It sounds like you’ve had a really hard time with it. No, you’re not nuts. It’s not paranoia when they actually are harrassing and bullying you
Yes the NKT plaster their same free add info anywhere they can, enticing you to download their same ‘FREE’ info its just to entice people to the NKT its a Selling ploy by them. Basically offering solutions, telling you how good they are, like putting the same NKT flyer in a newsagent window, it’s all over the web.
Wow- well done!
This is very thorough and I’m so sorry you had to experience this.
I’m even more sorry that the NKT have set up an entire website to defame you. Completely behaving against all of the teachings.
Thank you Mohammed for your kind words. It was the most disturbing experience. I hope that having this information available for people to see will help others avoid similar experience in future
This song feels very appropriate
For some reason the link to the song posted above is not correct. The linked song should have been “Come With Us” by Sophie Ellis Bextor. Listen to the lyrics and see what I mean.
I fully support this work and am convinced that the NKT is an insidious organisation.
It will be interesting to see the additions that the NKT make to Michelle’s smear campaign while they’re all in Arizona.
Watch this space…
Well it’s been remarkably quiet on the insidious troll front so far……either they are too busy or senior NKT have instructed people to leave me alone in order to protect the NKT reputation (not because of my wellbeing of course!)
They’ve made some additions and changes now but not sure when that was as I don’t look regularly. Additions include my father’s mental health problems as evidence of my pre-existing trauma. I believe they’ve also changed the language describing my mental health as I couldn’t see the ‘manifest psychiatric disorder’ anymore. Seems they have watched my video describing the attack and altered the website based on my analysis. They are like a virus, evolving their attack style to be more insidious. Shame everyone knows it’s senior NKT so it’s just more evidence of how relentless and pathological they are
Hi. I don’t know where else I might reach out to you and send you a message except here- I really hope you see it! I have just found your channel and think that you are doing such important work! I am an ex-NKT member in New York. I am currently pursuing a Masters degree in clinical social work, which teaches a lot of psychology, including trauma. Although I never got really deep into the tradition, I got close enough to see and experience a lot. I have a lot of stories to tell, a “testimony” if you will. I would hope that your channel would be a place where I could add my own voice in the form of a video testimony. Please send me an email! Many thanks. X
Just a message of support for all you are doing Michelle. I was part of the New Kadampa Tradition for almost two decades, but left after a number of incidents that led me to believe that I was not part of an authentic Buddhist tradition, but rather, a personality cult run by narcissists that abused their power, their only interest was making more and more money. There was no pastoral care, there was no duty of care, there was no safeguarding, and senior managers and ‘teachers’ frequently lied to cover-up serious failures in safeguarding, to a point where I would allege, there was a cover-up of criminal behaviour – financial and sexual abuse.
While “Gen la Thubten”, the disgraced sexual predator and ‘Buddhist monk’, and his team in the Kadampa Internet office at Manjushri KMC, Ulverston spend their time producing glossy brochures and videos in the hope of attracting unsuspecting people to the NKT, it’s important that this resource Michelle, is available for those trapped within the NKT to find a way out; a resource their friends and family to help NKT followers get out; and for those who have not yet fallen under the spell of the Kelsang Gyatso myth to avoid this sham organization.
In an ideal world I could leave my real name. But given the NKT tendency to slander it’s critics, it’s not worth the stress to my family.
I have approved this comment purely so that people can see how you are attempting to minimise abuse and to blame the victim. I will not enable the NKT’s decades of institutional abuse by practicing anything that the NKT or any other similar group recommends. Abuse is not all in our mind, malignant narcissists and sociopaths exist, and if we don’t call out their behaviour it will get worse
Abandon ego cherishing & replace it with far reaching attitude Om Mani Padme Hum
To force teachings on people who have clearly stated that they felt manipulated and exploited by people using the teachings, is sick and twisted. I will try to cherish, look after and protect myself and there is nothing you can do to annihilate me or make me feel inferior to you
Has your campaign helped you recover? Do you regret what you have done? Is there anything you would have done differently? Or are you still angry?
Why are you pretending to care about my recovery? You’re clearly trying to suggest that I should regret it and that I have an angry mind. Nice try
You look pretty angry in that new profile picture. Cheer up!
Dominic. People do not campaign for years and years against the NKT because they are ‘angry’. They are doing it because they know that the majority of people inside the NKT are going to be subjected to a terrible experience at the end of their ‘path’. What the teachers (unintentionally) are leading the long term practitioners through is a journey to a very painful isolation experience where they have to hide all their feelings and act increasingly robotic. It starts off very nice and blissful but for most people it slowly dries up and this displeases your teacher. Once you see this horrible experience you know what is going to happen to most of the people you love. Your closest friends, maybe your kindest teacher who saved your life.
A slow attempt to break free with a lot of unkindness as you do so, as well as trolling, gaslighting, the full works.
Most ordained people disrobe eventually and that process is incredibly traumatic for them. Adding into that all the visions of abandoning your teacher, feeling you have betrayed all the deities of Buddhism, even the strongest mind finds it terrifying seeing all your friends suddenly stonewalling you.
Basically you see a hell and you believe all those inside the NKT are going to go through what is an absolutely mind bending brain scrambling experience. Then you see the newcomers and see that in their future and realize you are inviting people to experience an incredible trauma, not Liberation from samsara.
I hope you understand now that its not anger.
The anger comes when on top of that experience and your former friends turning into ‘ice cold’ bodhisattvas with ice cold ‘love’. They start trying to destroy you to protect Buddhism with various sickening mind games. That goes on for many years as you speak out about how you were shunned by a load of ‘Bodhisattvas’. These Survivors have been abused online for years. You dont know what that is like. And you dont know what its like to get kicked out of a centre.
When it happens to you, its these people who will be there for you. They are not bad people. They just want Buddhism to be healthy and for disrobing and other elements to be met with some kindness perhaps would be a start.
You have no idea what its like for an entire Buddhist path construct to crumble. It is a hell & its totally wrong what the NKT members do to people going through this. They need a lot of kindness when this happens. You literally feel like you have betrayed the entire universe and all the people who you thought had real love turn away from you. You think all spiritual love is fake when that happens.
I hope this helps you understand better what is happening.
You just make NKT members look even more childish when you keep trolling like this.Setting up new email addresses just to troll me is incredibly sad and cowardly. Have you got nothing better to do? Feel free to keep going, I’ll approve them all so people can see
Dominic Marshmellow is not synonymous with a Buddhist tradition. Perhaps this is your fundamental error 🙂
Are you aware that when you troll me you actually help increase the visibility of my site? You might think you are humiliating me but you’re actually helping me
The whole world is witnessing your anger and inability to engage in discussion. If you want to expose yourself, then go right ahead 😃
You’re not engaging in meaningful conversation, if you were, I’d be happy to engage with you. Anger is a healthy reaction to being abused, and I’m really proud of myself for breaking free of the indoctrination and connecting with my righteous anger. There is literally nothing you can do to make me feel inadequate
There is no reason for you to feel inadequate, I don’t really understand where that is coming from.
What are you doing???? Please consider for a moment what faith tradition would encourage this type of harassment. Is this what you wanted when you decided to commit your life to this group? I don’t know what you believe about God, but you can’t possibly want to believe in a Supreme Being who approves or endorses actions such as yours. What are the implications?! Every religion seems to have some whacked-out branch that twists its teachings and its view of God and Truth, that abuses members, and solicits followers with shamefully deceptive practices. If Dr. Haslam is angry, she has a right to be. There is such a thing as righteous anger/indignation-at injustice (think: Martin Luther King, Jesus Christ, Archbishop Oscar Romero, Ghandi, Rigoberta Menchu, etc.). Please for the sake of your own soul, your own mental health, stop this harassment!
What is your definition of ‘harassment’ or ‘trolling’? I think these words are overused and are a form of gas lighting to avoid facing opposing opinions. If Michelle’s arguments are strong enough then she should be able to discuss them, if they are weak straw man logical fallacies then they will not stand up to an opposing view. Perhaps allow to fight her own battles, unless you are Michelle using a fake name. Nice try 😂
As stated above – I don’t believe anger is unhealthy. You are indoctrinated so you believe that any sign of phases of anger means that I am not in recovery. That’s not how people who understand trauma or abuse define recovery. Recovery does not mean lack of emotion. My ‘campaign’ is justified. I found out I was in a dangerous cult that is seriously hurting people. If I had no reaction to that, this would be pathological.
I only use my actual name, and my credentials, because I’m not a coward or ashamed of anything I have to say. You are gaslighting me whilst accusing us of gaslighting you. You did this as ‘Empty Bliss’ and several others. You can’t gaslight me by claiming I’m paranoid either. It’s obvious what you’re doing. I’m not approving any more of your psychological abuse. It’s disturbing that you were allowed to impregnate a working visitor as an NKT teacher given this is how you abuse people online. I worry for the safety of your child.
Oh DoMOnic you’re now known for your extremism and instability.
May you find…
something better to do with your time. (insert ironic praying emoji) lol
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This man teaches children NKT practices and preaches to them about Shugden in his religious education classes. Several concerned members of the public have tried to raise the alarm after seeing this on social media. Children should not be given messages that ‘negative’ emotions are ‘impure’, be taught Shugden or be given the impression that the dalai lama is a ‘saffron robed Muslim’.
Do(Mo)nic, just in case you’re still reading this, a friend of mine traced your IP address to the Desborough area, Sky Broadband. Hidden yogi/Empty Bliss/Shunyata Sukha/Dr Mere Name/Dominic Marshmellow, you’re not very good at remaining ‘hidden’. You’ve stooped to a new low with this latest troll name.
Attn: Michelle Haslam
Hello. I saw your contributions on the big qs. My wife and I were interested and thank you. Wanted to encourage you in your Organisation’s work.
I’m currently receiving support after indoctrination in the Assemblies of God Pentecostal UK in my earlier years. Useful has been Marlene Winnel’s book ” leaving the fold”.
I find that I can no longer enter a church and my support has to be through non religious support. I do feel concerned about vulnerable people in those churches and indeed in many schools where fundamentalist Christian groups visit emphasising sin and unworthiness.
My upbringing encountered much thought around egos. “I was nothing in myself” – this was so destructive.
However, I have a wonderful family. Married for 44 years, retired, grandchildren, caravanning etc. Much to be thankful for despite the mental health side of thingsvwhich at times has been difficult. Long term meds essential for me. Plus ebiking which helps enormously. And can’t thank our health services enough for their past and current input.
Was interested listening about your experiences. Delighted seeing what you and your colleagues are doing. A wonderful work as a clinical psychologist. Wishing you all much success.
Sending our best wishes
John & Eleanor Howell
Hi John thank you for your message. Glad to hear you’ve had some support. Understanding and untangling indoctrination is very complex and confusing. All the best, Michelle
I thought Dominic was very useful there. He seems to be very abusive. I was shocked by how personally attacked he is by your not believing in the same things he does. This sentence: If Michelle’s arguments are strong enough then she should be able to discuss them, if they are weak straw man logical fallacies then they will not stand up to an opposing view. Was particularly telling as he seems to be giving himself the advice he sorely needs.
Anyway teenage trolling aside, keep going 🙂 They say you can be in a room full of supporters but it only takes one to ruin everything… However, we both know after escaping the NKT, that ‘one’ (especially when they are proving our story) only makes things clearer for others to see the nastiness.
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Thanks Andrea. This person (who I believe to be Mohammed Butt) is also using the pseudonym ‘Dominic Marshmellow’ to taunt me, as this is the first name of the person I dated, and ‘mellow’ suggests my ex is cool calm and collected whilst I am not. In this way, Mo gaslights and provokes me, even though he personally told me that he thought my ex was an abusive person and he could not stand him, Mo now uses this to abuse me himself, to suggest I am spiritually inadequate and to attempt to humiliate me
About two months ago, I did a workaway in a NKT center. I was feeling quite lonely and depressed and thought it would be nice to be surrounded by mindful people and have this “community vibe”. It was only a week, but what a week. Very confusing. After I realized that other workawayers felt quite similar I decided to leave. Yesterday, I finally decided to leave a review on the workaway listing, thinking it could help people with “spiritual intentions” to avoid the place. I believe they have high ratings because people that have negative experiences there think “It must be me” or “I don’t want to be the complaining person”. In my case there was also a fear of retaliation (although irrational I guess) but still, it almost made me not write any feedback. Anyways, I thank you for what you do, it’s important to educate people that “Buddhist Meditation Center” doesn’t necessarily means it’s a Buddhist Meditation Center. All the best, sending love and support.
Hi there. No, it’s not an irrational fear that you have, they do retaliate, as you can see from the above trolling and the defamation and threats against former members. The NKT is one of the most malignant sects out there. Even Scientology will communicate more effectively with other organisations than the NKT does, the NKT just sends legal threats to organisations such as Inform that collect data on sects. They also heavily control their Wikipedia page, delete reviews from Google that aren’t positive etc. Thank you for leaving a review on Workaway. I’ve tried to tell Workaway about the risks. I saw working visitors being heavily exploited, psychologically abused, verbally abused, groomed into sexual relationships with ‘teachers’. Workaway took no action and stopped replying to me. The NKT deliberately avoid using their full name on their listings in order to deceive volunteers, so they don’t know that they are going to an NKT centre unless they do further research. I still see them using volunteers to advertise themselves, getting them to promote the centre by appearing in videos about how great the centre is, whilst they are being ‘love-bombed’. It’s terribly sad.
I came to this blog having watched a YouTube interview where you compare your NKT experience with a guy who had a bad experience with Watch Tower Group. I am an NKT Practitioner and have been a Mental Health Professional for 20 + years. I wondered if you would be open to talking with me? It’s okay if you would prefer not to engage with someone who is still a part of the organisation that you feel so damaged by.
Hi Geraldine. Please could you explain why you have said that I ‘feel’ so damaged by my experience, instead of recognising that I actually was intentionally harmed by the NKT trying to ruin my career as a result of my whistleblowing? Is that what you would say to someone who discloses a traumatic experience to you, as a mental health professional with so many years of experience? If you actually do have any experience as a mental health professional, and this isn’t just Mohammed Butt (again).
In my years with the NKT I’ve sometimes struggled with some of the teachings, in much the same way as you describe here. I’ve worried that I’m getting sucked into a cult, while at the same time I’ve gained much benefit from many of the practices. The question I can’t seem to answer for myself is, if not the NKT, what tradition or practices do you recommend to achieve permanent and lasting happiness, the bliss of enlightenment? Many Buddhist traditions have had similar claims levied upon them and individuals in those traditions have committed equally inappropriate actions. I’m reluctant to just throw it all away but I don’t want to be part of a cult. Please help!
Hi there. Sorry to hear that it sounds like you’re having a tough time. I don’t believe in enlightenment and don’t believe it’s healthy to try to be happy all the time. I also can’t recommend other groups as there are many with serious abuse issues. Many ex NKT hop straight to other groups looking for a path because they are still indoctrinated and want a new teacher. In my opinion people need to establish support networks, to rest and recover from the indoctrination, to do fun relaxing things as much as possible and try to let go if ideas of transcending being human. If you’d like to read my full opinion on this you can read my full report. Spiritual bypassing is the main practice in the NKT in my opinion and an important one to learn about. All the best.
It’s an interesting issue, on the one had it’s easy to get suckered into a new cult after leaving the NKT since the mindset fostered by membership might still be there. On the other hand I’ve know people leave the NKT but continue to try to practice the teachings on their own, and still get stuck in the toxic mindset fostered by some of the doctrines, before evetually returning to the group because its what’s familiar, so taking up a legitimate, non cultic practice could be beneficial. I started practicing Vipassana after leaving the NKT, it that worked for me, but I wouldn’t say it’s apropriate for everyone. I found the NKT stopped me from doing any meditation on my own terms, I was roped in to endless dreary prayer ceremonies and rituals instead, so for me joining a no-frills group with a simple practice I could work with was ideal. (I told the teacher at the Vipassana group “this is Dhamma for protestants. The NKT is Dhamma for Catholics”) For someone suffering from dissociation or anxiety while meidtating however, taking up another practice would probably not be appropriate. A good rule for life is there are no panaceas, and anyone who tells you otherwise is probably up to no good!
Ex-NKT here, I was in for about 6 years 🙂
I’d recommend the teachings of Michael Singer. He’s very down to earth and avoids this very enlightenment-obsessed culture omni-present in the NKT. The teachings are very simple, and he seems to avoid the spiritual bypass trap by avoiding teaching meditation or any spiritual techniques, it’s more like general instructions to get you in the right direction, and he lets you decide how to put that in practice for yourself. But also reading many teachers from many traditions helped me a lot after leaving the NKT, it helps to put things in perspective, and you get better at spotting unhealthy patterns.
But the comment from thrivingafterthenkt is very relevant. Before hopping to something else, take a break, relax, recover.
What you’ve written about spiritual bypassing is very interesting, and it seems – based on the work of Welwood – to be a problem much more far reaching than the NKT. I imagine that similar techniques may even be used in non-Buddhist spiritual traditions, as it sounds similar to what I’ve heard former followers say about Catholicism.
Fortunately, I don’t feel like that’s been an issue in my practice with the NKT. I have always felt encouraged by my teacher to examine my feelings and to learn to understand them, their benefits and faults. The practice of applying the antidote I have understood more as the effect that would occur if I were able to replace the delusion with the virtue, rather than something I should force upon myself while ignoring how I truly feel.
The practices that I personally find to be a bigger struggle and which seem to require a bigger leap of faith – something I’m reluctant to do – are the devotion to pujas (chanted prayer), regular consideration of past and future lives, and encouragement for Highest Yoga Tanya, a practice that even after 12 years in FP still seems too vaguely defined as to have clear benefit. I see that you do talk about that somewhat in your report.
But I don’t understand why you reject the idea of being happy all the time. I’ve made tremendous progress toward that goal, and while I haven’t reached it, it seems completely plausible to me that I could. One of the aspects of my many years of experience with CBT and other Western psychological practices that never sat well with me was the fact that the goal always seemed to be just normalcy. There’s no attempt to go beyond that, to maximize happiness. Some modern Western researchers, like Shawn Achor, do seem to suggest a path to a more pervasive happiness, one that to me resonates with what I’ve learned from the NKT. What do you recommend to be happy and reduce suffering, even if not 100% of the time?
Thanks for reading. I don’t wish to set myself up as a guru or expert on happiness as this replicates the cult leader dynamic. People who claim they have ultimate answers should not be trusted in my opinion. The NKT makes you feel superior to people who are not practicing, which I think is part of the reason why people feel happier than they used to. I don’t think there is anything wrong with normalcy. Why should we be above normalcy? I’m not a massive fan of CBT either although I think it is useful in some cases.
I’ve been an on-off attendee of NKT classes for a long time. I’m in the US, so maybe that’s why these allegations are new to me. I found your video on youtube just as I was considering giving the teachings another try by going back to Foundation Program classes. Now I have major misgivings. I felt like a failure previously because I couldn’t transcend my “delusions.” Doctrine aside, I don’t want my money going to an organization that harasses and smears dissenters. Thank you for making this site.
Hiya. thought I would jump in here.
I think the notion of being ‘happy all the time’ is something to be wary about, particularly how this is framed in the NKT and how that framing might point to other things that are going on.
The goals of deeper understanding and emotional and ‘spiritual’ development are I think admirable ones, if they point to a greater appreciation of the human condition and a capacity to respond to and empathise with others. I think this work can carry a deeper sense of well-being and brings it’s own rewards in many other areas. It is the ‘path’ of a well lived human life. Fromm and Erikkson, for example, write about this.
However, the notion of ‘being happy all time’ off-set against ‘delusion’ points to the NKT framing. The ‘permanent happiness’ thing is the hook of their spiritual marketing – the glossy broachers and stock footage of attractive people looking fulfilled. The delusion? well, that turns out to be pretty much everything you think and feel. The solution? surrender your ‘ego’ to the NKT: realise that you know nothing and Geshe-la (your new god – more a concept now than a person) knows everything. All you have to do is surrender fully to him (by unwavering faith, and eliminating self cherishing and self grasping) to somehow become ‘fully enlightened.’ This is truly, truly harmful stuff. Many who have been on this site will attest to that.
It would seem that you have had some benefits from your practice, which is great. But please let me suggest some further red flags. The binaries of ‘delusion’ and ‘virtue’ are, ironically, a bit deluded (and a very simplistic). Feelings are just feelings. Coming to understand them – to live with them and not hold them too tight, will have benefits (Ram Dass used to say he had become ‘a connoisseur of his neuroses’ Through his practice. He said this with humour). This talk of ‘replacing’ could be read as ‘bypassing’ and is a harmful and silly notion. Ultimately, bypassing your own experience as something valid is in my own experience what the NKT is ultimately all about, once you take the leap from the periphery into the core. I might suggest you have remained on the periphery.
Although I am not associated with any Kadampa organization, I have been a student of Buddhism and other eastern philosophies. When I was on a trek in the Himalayas, I visited a Tibetan Buddhist monastery, and the guide that I hired made arrangements for me to speak with the head Lama of that monastery. It was an honor, and I learned something about Buddhism, the Tibetan people, and meditation practice. Since then, I have engaged in a daily meditation practice.
I have taken meditation and Buddhist philosophy classes; however, just like at a university, after taking the class, the instructor and I go our separate paths. I apply what I have learned. I also did one of the 10-day Vippasana retreats, which was established by the S. N. Goenka. There too, I was learning techniques, which I utilize. I am aware that that organization has a tendency to “lure” people to follow a practice using only their technique. I believe that I should not have attachment to or be restricted to any one meditation technique.
With that, I am aware that ALL of the major world religions have a subset, where cults are established. Just like various cults in Christianity, form what I am learning, I can see Kadampa as a cult within Buddhism. Any cult is dangerous. In the various religions, there are many good and positive teachings. Unfortunately, any one of them can be infiltrated by people that are psychopaths, sociopaths, and narcissists. Here are a couple of YouTube videos from 2 authorities in that field of psychology:
These help me to understand certain people that I have encountered in the past. Importantly, it will provide me with knowledge to be “equipped” to handle such people, when they are encountered at a future time. It definitely helps to understand many people in the political, corporate, religious institutions, and other “arenas” in the world. There is a sub-category of narcissists, called the spiritual narcissist. Here is some information, which pertains to that subject matter:
In summary, accept the good, whether it is teachings or meditation practice; however, avoid the psychopaths, sociopaths, and narcissists – especially the “spiritual” type! If something doe not feel right, RUN away!
I just discovered this site through youtube, and it’s got me fairly churned up. I’ve been involved with NKT off-and-on for over 20 years. Never lived in a center and only did a few months in the foundation program back in 2000. But I’m just now realizing (through reading your report) just how much the teachings had penetrated my every thought. It really felt like authentic wisdom. It’s hard to argue against love and compassion, doing for others, etc. But the mediations never really helped me; it always felt like we were trying to live out some other culture’s ancient monastic practices. And the more I failed the more I blamed myself. I usually have pretty good “creep radar” when approached by cultists, so it’s still hard for me to see NKT that way. No one ever pressured me to take classes; I came and went as I pleased. Maybe it’s different in the US. I learned through the grapevine that my original teacher in Seattle had disrobed. He always seemed like a very smart and kind person, so I’m wondering what pushed him to leave.
I noticed quite a few people around the NKT would just be “hangers on” who would go to meditation classes without getting too deeply involved in the doctrine, some of them were followers of other religions. However, this isn’t that uncommon in cults, Transcendental Meditation is similar. Just bcause not everyone gets pulled into the cultish elements of the NKT, it doesn’t mean they’re not there. Your teacher disrobing might say something about the centre you went to, I saw three NKT centres where there would be a really nice, down-to-earth resident teacher who didn’t try to push dogma on people, and was very accepting and tolerant. In all three cases said resident teachers either quit or were forced out, to be replaced by complete automatons, while everyone bad-mouthed the old resident teachers.
Hi Tim. I can understand why my writing got you churned up and I hope you have some support around you to help you while you process all of this. I needed significant support and am still processing some of the gaslighting in therapy now as the effects on my intuition were so severe.
It’s a myth that cults pressure people to take their classes. The recruitment is much more subtle than that. They have clever advertising and Westerners are very naive about Buddhism. The indoctrination starts in subtle ways, they suggest classes will improve your mental health which of course everyone wants. If you dont return no one will chase you or make demands of you, usually. Cults very rarely keep people physically captive, instead you return because you believe through their suggestions that you need their practices to be happy or save the world.