Smear: NKT is a cult
Truth: The NKT is not a cult but a Mahayana Buddhist tradition. The definition of cult in the Chambers Dictionary is an “unorthodox or false religion”. Since the NKT follows only the Mahayana teachings of the great Buddhist Masters Atisha (982-1054 AD) and Je Tsongkhapa (1357-1419 AD) , which are traced back to Buddha Shakyamuni himself (500 BC), it is neither false nor unorthodox.
Its Internal Rules – containing numerous checks and balances on the behavior, election and dismissal of the administrators, teachers, and spiritual directors – also guard against any extreme behavior and are legally binding.
In A Moral Discipline Guide, The Internal Rules of The New Kadampa Tradition – International Kadampa Buddhist Union, §1 the New Kadampa Tradition is defined as follows:
The New Kadampa Tradition – International Kadampa Buddhist Union is defined as the union of Kadampa Buddhist Centers, the international association of study and meditation centers that follow the pure tradition of Mahayana Buddhism derived from the Buddhist meditators and scholars Atisha (982-1054 AD) and Je Tsongkhapa (1357-1419 AD) , introduced into the West by the Buddhist teacher Venerable Geshe Kelsang Gyatso, the Founder of the New Kadampa Tradition ~ International Kadampa Buddhist Union.
As for cult-like behavior that the NKT have been accused of from time to time, we will look at each instance in other points on this website. If you have a suspicion of cult-like behavior in any NKT Center, please send it to us so we can look into it. We have no desire to behave like a cult in any respect.
In general, a good test as to whether something is a cult is to check: “Is what I am taught designed to take control of me or helping me take control of myself? The former is a cult, the latter is a Buddhist tradition. In NKT centers around the world, students learn how to gain control of their own minds and lives through reducing their negative minds (such as anger, greed and ignorance) and increasing their positive minds (such as love, compassion and wisdom).
For the history of how the NKT came to be called a cult by its detractors, please look at:
The history of the New Kadampa Tradition’s ‘cult’ smear, Part 1
The history of the New Kadampa Tradition’s ‘cult’ smear, Part 2
The history of the New Kadampa Tradition’s ‘cult’ smear, Part 3
The history of the New Kadampa Tradition’s ‘cult’ smear, Part 4
The history of the New Kadampa Tradition’s ‘cult’ smear, Part 5