Threats to life, health and livelihood
Testimony writers report the following:
- Death threats (e.g. their parents receiving funeral brochures with their names on)
- Legal threats should they write a testimony, publish a book or share their opinion on the NKT publicly
- Threats to their reputation for the purpose of destroying their livelihoods, careers and financial security
- Being stalked online and in person
- Sabotage of access to mental health services
Ad Hominem attacks and character assassination
An ‘Ad Hominem attack’ is an attack on someone’s character or mental stability as a way of discrediting them in order to avoid engaging with their argument.
‘People in power and their established entourage have the opportunity to use social isolation by spreading rumors about someone, employing public slander or ordering others to do so. And such slander campaigns are not limited to group borders, but may be extended to members’ social background, key relationships or professional relationships’.Anders (2019b)
Character assassinated as mentally unstable
NKT members are known to claim that testimony writers are mentally ill as a method for dismissing their claims. Narcissists are known to claim that their ex-partners are crazy or hysterical when they attempt to point out their abusive behaviour.
‘Such a system of slandering, systematically humiliating women and stigmatizing people, even with terms referring to psychiatric diseases, creates distress and fear in the group and for the individual’.Anders (2019b)
Of course this could be easy to achieve as an ex-member is indeed likely to be struggling with some symptoms of post-traumatic stress. It is likely that any pre-existing trauma may be blamed for any difficulties they have following leaving the NKT. ‘Dr Robert Harrison’s hypotheses regarding my own childhood trauma on http://www.dr-michelle-haslam.com under a fake identity (a common tactic used to get away with character assassination of critical ex-members) are shown below.
This is an example of an ad hominem attack to avoid engaging with the idea that there could be any psychological damage caused by involvement with the NKT. ‘Dr Robert Harrison’ suggests that I am not aware of the impact of my own fathers illness and death. I don’t include all the information on my history because it would be very revealing to type it all up in detail and survivors may not find this relevant to their own recovery. I am aware that I had pre-existing trauma and would argue that if I hadn’t, it is unlikely that I would have been drawn into the NKT.
It is often difficult for the current member to recognise that they themselves are likely to have a mental health and attachment difficulty too (or narcissistic personality disorder) which made them vulnerable to becoming involved with the group. Whilst within the group, if their needs are being met, they may believe that they are on the path to enlightenment when in reality they are simply becoming more dissociated or narcissistic.
Character assassinated as ‘obsessed’
It is common for members of authoritarian sects to tell critics to ‘move on’ and ‘let go’ in an attempt to suggest that they are mentally unwell due to obsession with the group. This is likely due to the current member feeling threatened, and wishing the critic to stop speaking up so that the current member’s security within the group is safe.
Again, there is an element of truth, as victims often do become hyperfocused on the perpetrator. In addition, cult members are indoctrinated to develop a feeling of responsibility towards the other members. This means that when they leave and discover the dangerous nature of the group, they become fearful about potential harm coming to those who remain in the group. Due to this, they risk appearing like an anti-cult fanatic. It could be argued that due to the fanatical nature of the group, and its tendency to dominate the internet with its advertising, ex-members are forced to become anti-NKT fanaticals in order to stand a chance of warning people that there are potential risks associated with involvement with this group. This desire to warn people about the NKT is likely to be more intense for those who experienced severe abuse and trauma within the group themselves. Current members and outsiders who have never been involved in the group are likely to view the concerned ex-member as obsessed and mentally unstable, thus adding to social isolation and to feelings of shame.
Character assassinated as ‘disgruntled’ “survivors” (spiritually inadequate)
The NKT are known to refer to critical ex-members as ‘disgruntled’ former members and ‘survivors’ in inverted commas which suggests that survivors impute (label) themselves as ‘survivors’. This of course is true, but suggests that current members believe survivors are exaggerating the extent to which they have suffered as a result of involvement with the NKT and are acting like victims.
Due to the group narcissism, there is a pervasive view that those outside the NKT are not on the correct spiritual path (and are therefore on some level, inferior). It is therefore likely that they will attack critics through comments that come across as patronising and superior. For those who are still in the ‘love bombing and flattery’ early stages of involvement with the group, and who experience relief due to the spiritual bypassing, it may be difficult for them to understand why people would become critical of the NKT and its practices.
Character assassinated as jealous
Due to group narcissism NKT members are indoctrinated to believe that those who speak up or to oppose the NKT in any way are simply jealous of the NKT’s ‘success’ due to its expansion.
Character assassinated as religious persecutors
NKT members have been indoctrinated to believe that outsiders persecute them. They believe that those who do not agree with Shugden practice are trying to take away their religious freedom, even though no one actually did try to stop them practicing Shugden worship. Below, an NKT teacher states she believes these practitioners are traumatised. I would argue that it is the NKT who traumatised them by instilling paranoia in its members, which serves to strengthen group cohesion and fear of the outside world.
Character assassinated as a bad Buddhist (bad person)
NKT members suggest that former members are not good Buddhists anymore (inferring that they are no longer good people).
‘Due to missing knowledge of the unconscious and its implications, and of psychological trauma treatment in Buddhist philosophy and in Tibetan medical contexts, this traumatization was ignored. Even worse, instead of listening to victims with genuine compassion, the highest authorities regard and proclaim the damaged ones to be aggressive. In this way, they not only ignore the long-lasting effects of psychological trauma on the individual as well as the group, but publicly stoke the aggression that has harmed the victim.‘Anders (2019a)
Anders, A. (2019). Silencing and Oblivion of Psychological Trauma, Its Unconscious Aspects, and Their Impact on the Inflation of Vajrayāna. An Analysis of Cross-Group Dynamics and Recent Developments in Buddhist Groups Based on Qualitative Data. Religions, 10(11), 622