Smear: NKT monks and nuns are not authentic

Truth: NKT monks and nuns are authentic and try to show a good and practical example of service, celibacy and humility for our modern world. Buddha Shakyamuni himself said that the Vinaya should be practiced in accordance with what is most acceptable for society. The NKT is following this advice from Buddha.

NKT monks and nuns practice everything that a fully ordained monk or nun in Buddha's tradition would practice, minus the cultural rules that make benefiting others in the West in these modern times almost impossible. Nowadays, most Western monks and nuns are not living in actual monasteries but are out and about helping living beings.

In response to some NKT monks and nuns joining the Western Shugden Society (WSS) to protest against the Dalai Lama's political ban of the worship of Wisdom Buddha Dorje Shugden, the Australian Sangha Association (ASA) recently delivered a statement to say that NKT monks and nuns are not authentic. It is strange that they did not issue similar statements about other any other monastic tradition when Buddhist monks protested in Tibet, Burma, Vietnam, Korea or Cambodia! Their statement stems from their allegiance to the Dalai Lama (which is clear from their website) and is more politically than spiritually motivated. In fact, see the video Response to letter from the Australian Sangha Association for more on the subject of the ASA’s letter to the New Kadampa Tradition, showing their demonstrations, and the NKT’s reply, showing the violence of Dalai Lama supporters in 1996 and the present-day.

Continue reading for a direct reply to their statement here, clarifying the spiritual reasons for the authenticity of NKT Buddhist monks and nuns.

There are eight different types of Pratimoksha vows:

(1) Nyennä vows - one-day ordination vows
(2) Genyenma vows - vows of a laywoman
(3) Genyenpa vows - vows of a layman
(4) Getsulma vows - vows of a novice nun
(5) Getsulpa vows - vows of a novice monk
(6) Gelobma vows - preliminary vows taken before becoming a fully ordained nun
(7) Gelongma vows - vows of a fully ordained nun
(8) Gelongpa vows - vows of a fully ordained monk

In Tibetan Buddhism, the lineages of both the Gelobma and the Gelongma (nos. 6 and 7 of the Pratimoksha vows) have ceased and disappeared. Therefore, these two ordinations no longer exist.

Nowadays, in Tibetan Buddhism, the Gelongpa vows (no. 8) mainly exist in name only. Those with this ordination hold the name "Gelong", seeming or pretending to hold this high level of vows; but in truth it is very difficult to find a Tibetan Gelong who understands the real meaning of the 253 vows.

Although Tibetan Getsul ordained people promise to keep 36 vows, in practice many of these are broken from the day the vows are taken.

We should appreciate that the NKT is acting honestly, in accordance with this reality, following the truth. They are not pretending to be lofty or important simply by collecting a large number of vows that are subsequently not possible for a modern-day practitioner to keep.

Buddha Shakyamuni himself said that the Vinaya should be practiced in accordance with what is most acceptable for society. The NKT is following this advice from Buddha.

For example, according to the Vinaya, it is an offence for a monk to touch his mother out of affection. This would be completely unacceptable in Western culture and would lead people to think that Buddhism was 'weird' and has nothing to do with normal life.

Another example is a vow that states that monks cannot handle money. This is also completely impractical when it comes to running a Dharma Center or operating in daily life! It would put many restrictions on the activities of an ordained person living in the West. Also, if Western Dharma teachers had to wait for lay people to feed them they would die of starvation! It is not part of Western culture for people to beg, but it is part of Western culture for people to work and support themselves.

And how are we supposed to understand and keep these vows in this modern day?

Not to bathe more frequently than once a fortnight when residing in the middle Ganges Valley, except on certain occasions.

Not to teach Dharma to a person wearing sandals, unless he is sick.

In case a Bhikkhu should get some goats' wool whilst he is on a journey, let him accept it, if he likes; and when he has accepted it, he may carry it in his own hand, if there are no porters, for the distance of three leagues. Should he carry it further than that, even if there are no porters--that is a Pâkittiya offence involving forfeiture.

See how the 253 vows of a Gelong (fully ordained monk) are contained within the ten vows of the New Kadampa Tradition.

Why have the ASA delivered such a misleading and injurious statement?

They state in their website: "The ASA was set up specifically to support dialogue and understanding among monastics of different traditions", yet they have excluded 700 NKT monks and nuns from their Sangha directory without any dialogue and with a great deal of misunderstanding. NKT monks and nuns in Australia and elsewhere sincerely try to keep a pure celibate lifestyle motivated by renunciation and compassion, and have dedicated their lives to helping others through Buddha's teachings, so why would the ASA defame and ostracize them in this way?

The "Council of Elders" who comprise the spiritual guidance of the ASA currently consists of seven monks and two nuns, two of whom are Tibetan Buddhists: Tenzin Tsapel and Khenpo Ngawang Dhamchoe. Tenzin Tsapel is a teacher with the FPMT and therefore naturally biased against the NKT. See Behind the Lies for the FPMT's campaign against the NKT. Khenpo Ngawang Dhamchoe is a Sakya teacher. The current head of the Sakya school (Sakya Trizin) is close to the 14th Dalai Lama and speaks out against Dorje Shugden in the documentary on the Dalai Lama's own website. Clearly Ngawang Dhamchoe is biased against the NKT for their practice of Dorje Shugden. The other members of the council of elders seem to be influenced in their harsh judgment by the Dalai Lama's statements and behavior around the issue of Dorje Shugden; so the statement of the ASA clearly has at least some political motivations behind it.

This mixture of religion and politics seems to be causing the degeneration of pure Buddhadharma and harmony between traditions far more effectively than any peaceful democratic protests asking for religious freedom could ever do. A statement like this indicates why the Western Shugden Society needs to keep demonstrating against the Dalai Lama to bring the world's attention to this deteriorating situation.

Chronicle of Events Leading up to the ASA’s Statement Against the NKT, 2002-2008
By Buddhist nun Kelsang Zabdon, Mahasiddha Centre, Sydney, Australia

16 November 2002 An article appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald weekend edition entitled “Buddhism’s ‘Taliban’ Blamed for Dalai Lama Death Threats”. This mentioned posters that had appeared threatening to kill the Dalai Lama and that police suspect a Tibetan Shugden cult. They go on to say that the NKT is a “branch of the Shugdens” established by Geshe Kelsang Gyatso and that relations have been strained between it and the Dalai Lama.

[Ed: This was an irresponsible, sensationalist and badly researched piece of journalism drawing heavily from the propaganda of the Dalai Lama’s Tibetan government in exile, which was addressed by Geshe Kelsang at the time. See and for more information on the subject of the Dalai Lama and Dorje Shugden.]

25 March 2003 We sent in an application to join the Buddhist Council of New South Wales (NSW).

9 April 2003 Graham Lyall (the Chairman of the Buddhist Council of NSW) responds to my follow-up email re. our application, saying that he will need to check with two of his members -- the Vajrayana Institute (FPMT) and the Australian Institute of Buddhist Learning and Practice -- to see if it is a problem for them if we were to join the council.

(Notes: I still have this email.)

April/ May 2003 I speak to Graham Lyall via telephone, where he explains that Mahasiddha Centre has not been accepted onto the Council due to the views of the other members.

Jan 2004 Mahasiddha Centre had 3 packages of publicity returned from someone who said that he was going to collect up all the publicity that we distribute throughout Newtown and Glebe (two of our main areas) and send it back to us. He writes strange messages on the packages that he returns such as “Kelsang Gyatso is no longer a Geshe – ok!” and “Long live HHDL!”; and on one note that was inside a package he said “We do not want NKT. Long live the Dalai Lama! Kelsang Gyatso is a traitor and has been stripped of his Geshe status – check up!” and “Dorje Shugden is a worldly material superstition. BE TOLD, all of your cards and posters in Newtown and Glebe will be returned to you – collect post, you are wasting trees, energy and space”.

(Notes: I still have the packages that were returned – they stopped being returned early Feb 04. There was an FPMT Centre in Newtown at that time.)

[Ed: This removal and/or defacing of NKT publicity is fairly typical and has taken place in towns around the world where there are FPMT Centres or other Tibetan Centres supporting the Dalai Lama’s ban of Dorje Shugden.]

10th May 2005 I email Graeme Lyall, the Chairman of the Buddhist Council, to ask for a letter of support from the council for Resident Teacher Kelsang Dao’s upcoming visa application.

12th May 2005 Graham responds to my email with the following: “As the Buddhist Council of New South Wales does not recognise the New Kadampa Tradition as a part of the Buddhist community in New South Wales, I regret that I am unable to supply a supporting letter.”

(Notes: I still have the email.)

May 2005 I attend a Vesak Celebration hosted by the Buddhist Council of NSW and meet a Sakya nun who tells me about the Australian Sangha Association that is being set up for Australian monastics – she is very excited to meet me and tells me I absolutely must come along.

8th June 2005 I attend the 1st Australian Sangha Association (ASA) conference. The Sakya nun who had previously been very friendly is now very frosty. During the morning tea, some Sangha wearing Tibetan robes wave me over to join them. They turn out to be from FPMT Centres and as soon as they find out I am from the NKT they are obviously uncomfortable with me sitting there – but are polite enough to make conversation.

During the day one elderly FPMT nun approaches me and is very warm and friendly and tells me how wonderful it is that I could come and then asks me what tradition I am from. As soon as I answer she turns on her heals and briskly walks away.

We break into groups during the day for discussion and one person is required to give a summary on behalf of the group. Nobody in my group wanted to give the summary so I said that I was happy to do it – as soon as I said this one of the FPMT nuns who I had met that morning got a bit angry and said, “No – I will do it!”

Oct 2005 The Friends of the Western Buddhist Order (FWBO) contact me to bring my attention to a cult listing on the Buddhist Council of NSW website. They have also been listed as a cult on the same listing – even though they are members of the council.

21st June 2006 I attend the 2nd ASA Conference and am asked to join an FPMT monk outside for a talk. He tells me that he is one of the ASA management committee and that he would stop me from joining – his manner was very stern. He said the reason he would do this is because the NKT was causing harm and that he would take this to the elders of the ASA (a group of 8 monks on the association who have been ordained for over 20 years- they make the big decisions). I replied that that was really horrible and that we would never cause anybody any harm. He then asked what I would do and I said that I would just wait and see what happened and I would put my own case forward. He then went into a meeting with the other managers about me for about 45 minutes.

Nobody said anything to me about it so I just carried on and in the afternoon they held the AGM. There was a vacancy on the board for the position of Treasurer- nobody else wanted to do it and I thought that it would be good for me to be more involved in the association so I put my hand up and said I would be happy to do it. Then the FPMT monk stood up and said that I was from the NKT and that I couldn't be a member- he said something else about the NKT but I couldn't hear as I was across the other side of the room- I think he also said something about me just trying to get onto the board (presumably with evil intentions!) at which point I burst out crying! (how embarrassing!). An FPMT nun immediately stood up and said that she would be the Treasurer.

After the meeting I spoke to the FPMT monk and the secretary of the ASA outside. The FPMT monk says that he is sorry and that he is just following his Lama's orders and that it wasn't personal. We talked for a while they were both quite sympathetic and certainly willing to listen. The FPMT monk said that that Geshe-la had helped many people and that he had personally enjoyed his books -- they were very clear and easy to understand. The secretary apologised profusely for not speaking to me before the AGM and he said that everyone was shocked when I applied to be the Treasurer, and that it wasn't handled at all well. He said that they wanted to sort this out, so what would happen was that my request for membership would be taken to the elders.

(Notes: There is a DVD of the conference that I am trying to get a copy of.)

Jan 2007 The secretary of the ASA calls me to tell me that after much discussion the ASA have decided to allow me to join as a ‘friend of the ASA’. He said that he has consulted with various people -- the ASA management committee and Tibetan elders as well as people within various groups. He said that basically they are sympathetic and encourage me and NKT members to be involved, but there is a political division. The Dalai Lama, FPMT and Sakya people have a strong point of view and are not happy with NKT members being ASA members so he said that they have decided that I can apply for membership as a friend of the ASA and have the opportunity to prove myself and the NKT.

Jan 2007 It is bought to my awareness that there is a new Buddhist Council of NSW – a new Chairman, new premises and a new website – without the cult listing.

May 2007 For the last 3 years running we have been invited to join the Nan Tien temple at a large celebration that they have in Sydney for Buddha’s Birthday. We are usually invited to say some prayers for world peace and join the other Sangha for lunch. This year we were not invited.

(Note: The Abbess of Nan Tien is also a board member of the ASA.)

12th July 2007 At the 3rd annual ASA conference all the Sangha were really quite friendly towards me, although Item 9 on the AGM agenda was: ‘ASA policy re. The New Kadampa Tradition.’

When it got to Item 9, the chairman started by explaining what had happed last year with the FPMT monk protesting a member of the NKT becoming a member of the ASA. Then the FPMT monk took over and explained his reasons for protesting -- I didn't quite catch everything he said but he said that there were 3 main areas that had to do with “activities” (he didn't explain what the activities were). I think the first were activities that were not helpful to Buddhism (I could be wrong about that because he also said something about not being helpful politically) and then he said that these actions were not helpful for the Dharma in general and then that the activities result in sectarian problems and then he just went on a bit and talked about how they had come to an agreement to let me be a 'Friend of the ASA'.

Then the Chairman asked if I would like to comment -- I said no at first. I just didn't think that I could and I didn't really know what to say and there was a fear there could be tears again but then I just kind of blurted out something along the lines of "it being a really horrible situation last year, and those things are not true and not correct”. And
then I think I said something about appreciating the time that Sujato and the elders had taken in discussing it and that Sujato had contacted me to let me know that I could join as a 'friend' in order to prove myself to the council; and that I really look forward to the future and to proving myself to all of them.

Then a nun spoke about how the Dalai Lama in his recent visit had spent about twenty minutes talking about the practice done by the Kadampas and had suggested that anyone who did the practice should not take the initiation and should leave. Then she asked the FPMT monk to talk about the practice and he said that he didn't really know what the practice was -- other than being the Shugden practice and it brought about quick results that seem like success.

He also said that he wasn't even sure if all the Centres did the practice and then he just went on a bit. Then another monk said that it was because they weren't sure who the entity was and if it was a beneficial entity and then the chairman wrapped it up and said that if anyone had any questions they could ask Tony; at which point I turned my
microphone on and said that if anyone had any questions they could ask me because it is a practice that I do everyday.

I waited to speak with the Chairman at the end and we had a nice chat. He said "Thank you for coming back" and that we have one foot in the door and soon we will have both feet in. He said to get all my friends to join too! - I told him I had a lot of friends and he laughed and said to get them all to join!

Then I left and, as I was walking away, the FPMT monk ran after me. I said something cheeky about him not making me cry this year and he kind of apologised (without actually apologising) for dealing with it so badly last year. Then he asked if I lived in a Centre and did I live in a Centre last year and do we do the practice there and then he said that obviously I believe in it very strongly and believe it brings about good results and it's obvious to everyone that I don't intend any harm -- that's obvious by my manner. I just said that yes I do believe very strongly in the practice and that it only brings benefit and that I really try to keep Dorje Shugden in my heart - after that he just kind of made polite conversation and said goodbye.

(Notes: There is also a DVD of this conference that I am trying to get a copy of.)

Sept/Oct 2007 Sent in applications for all NKT Sangha in Australia to join the ASA.

29th Oct 2007 We apply once again to join the Buddhist Council.

23rd June 2008 After months of the council putting off discussing our application, I speak to the Chairman of the Buddhist Council regarding our application. He says that he does not understand the demonstrations and would like to speak to someone about it. I suggest the Mahasiddha Centre Resident Teacher and all being well they will be meeting in late August.

The annual ASA meeting is being held on Wednesday and Thursday next week.

[Ed. As we know, since then, the ASA has issued a statement saying that the ordination of NKT monks and nuns is not authentic. NKT monastics are not even welcome as “friends of the ASA”. Clearly, as the ASA secretary himself indicated, this statement is politically motivated and stems from the orders of the Dalai Lama. Spiritual reasons for denying NKT ordination had never been brought up before this latest ASA meeting. They are spurious and are being used simply as an excuse.]

“He [the Secretary] said that basically they are sympathetic and encourage me and NKT members to be involved, but there is a political division. The Dalai Lama, FPMT and Sakya people have a strong point of view and are not happy with NKT members being ASA members”.


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