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.
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.
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. You can see Michelle talk to Christian about recovery here. Christian is especially interested in educating people about the potential dangers of practicing meditation within a cultic environment.
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.
Carmelo Russo is an ex-resident of Nagarjuna Kadampa Meditation Centre and a retired mental health nurse. Carmelo’s video testimony is here.
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.
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.
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.
- Emily Francis, ex-member
- Andrew Cheadle, ex-resident of Nagarjuna KMC
- Richard Litchfield, ex-member
- Gabriella Markgraf, ex-member
- Linda Ciardiello, ex-resident
- David Suppan, writer on ethics in spiritual groups
- Jon Atack, ex-scientologist, author and Manager of Projects at Open Minds Foundation
- 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.
There are currently no face-to-face support groups for ex-members of the NKT specifically. More recovery based materials are currently under development.
‘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‘
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.
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 email@example.com.
Anders, A. I. M. (2019). Psychological impact of power abuse in buddhist groups and essential aspects in psychotherapeutic interventions for the affected. SFU Research Bulletin 7/1, 32-50.