Gaslighting is when a person tries to make you doubt your own perception, intuition, memory or sanity.
NKT members are encouraged to view their spiritual guide and his disciples as perfect, and to believe that they only perceive faults in others because they have an ‘impure mind’. This means that when trying to raise concerns about abusive behaviour to management or other residents, they are often told statements such as ‘impure mind, impure world’, and encouraged to strive even harder to ‘purify’ their view. Due to the NKT’s views on abuse, many report that their attempts to report abuse were dismissed or blamed on their karma. Anders (2019) argues that simplified decontextualized Buddhist ideas have been used to stop people from sharing the unspeakable and to conceal abuse and trauma.
Ex-members are often told that they have misunderstood the teachings, which subtly suggests that they are inadequate and that the NKT hold all the answers:
The admin director told me that people leave because they ‘lack patience in their spiritual path’ or have ‘developed an angry mind and are blaming the centre’ or are mentally ill. Many survivors report that management blame the persons pre-existing mental health condition or their karma for any deterioration without acknowledging any possibility that the centre exploited, neglected or abused them. In my opinion it is possible to blame people’s minds so that the centre does not have to take responsibility for the deterioration of peoples health, or for safeguarding.
For those who live in the centres, they also may unconsciously defend the centre because their security is linked to ensuring that it carries on running. The criticism of former members also reinforces members’ views that they are on the right path, and that their version of dharma remains faultless. Thus when members leave and are perceived as weak in some way, it can serve to strengthen the remaining group cohesion and belief that they are collectively stronger.
NKT members are known to attempt to make critics question their mental clarity and sanity. In the below screenshot ‘Empty Bliss’ attempts to do this and then suggests I am paranoid for thinking that they are not being genuine. These comments were deleted quickly, which may have been to make me doubt my own memory, or to save the NKTs reputation as gaslighters of people’s mental state.
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