Smears of The New Kadampa Tradition

Smear: NKT has no lineage after Geshe Kelsang

Truth: This is not true. This objection arises from comparing the NKT-IKBU (New Kadampa Tradition ~ International Kadampa Buddhist Union) with the Tibetan Buddhist tradition, feeling that it should operate in the same way; but this does not have to be the case.

The NKT believes that a Teacher should be assessed on the merit of their own qualified teachings and example, not by their reincarnation lineage or titles. 

NKT detractors have claimed that after Geshe Kelsang’s retirement in 2009, the General Spiritual Director of the NKT will not be a Geshe, Lama or Rinpoche, and therefore there will be no lineage for NKT in the future. However, the living lineage of any Buddhist tradition has always existed in the hearts of its practitioners as realizations. It cannot exist on paper or in titles such as ‘Geshe’, ‘Lama’ or ‘Rinpoche’. These titles should be given either out of respect for the example that such a practitioner demonstrates, or as a qualification (in the case of ‘Geshe’) for a particular course of academic study.

The lineage of the NKT-IKBU is maintained as follows: The essence of Je Tsongkhapa’s teachings on the path to enlightenment have been transmitted to Geshe Kelsang’s disciples, both orally and in written form. These instructions contain everything required to reach enlightenment. NKT-IKBU practitioners have therefore received the lineage of all of Buddha’s teachings, and through their own sincere study and practice can become a lineage holder. 

Smear: NKT students are encouraged to see no faults in their teachers

Truth: This is not true. Blind faith is completely discouraged in the NKT. It is a common teaching in Buddhism to develop some respect for one's teacher as this leads to a humble mind for receiving the teachings. However, Geshe Kelsang has given much advice on this subject, such as the following.

Smear: NKT students are advised not to listen to teachers other than NKT teachers

Truth: It is true that NKT students are sometimes encouraged not to mix traditions together but instead to emphasize their own practices and teachings, understanding them to present a complete path to enlightenment. However, this advice is given in the context of non-sectarianism, respecting other traditions and seeing them as also having a complete path to enlightenment.

No one has ever said in NKT classes that you must only listen to other NKT teachers. For example, there are General Program students who choose to attend teachings of the Dalai Lama and they are not told not to.

Ironically, however, NKT students not allowed to attend either the Dalai Lama’s or Lama Zopa’s teachings if they are relying upon Buddha Dorje Shugden. Moreover, FPMT students are strongly advised not to attend NKT teachings and Centers. For example, one person pointed out in early 2009:

Smear: NKT teachers are immature and/or manipulative

Truth: The NKT does not claim to be perfect or for its teachers to be perfect. Some teachers, however well intentioned, have acted heavy-handedly or have made mistakes due to a lack of experience, which is of course regretted. However, there is no systemic appointment of unskillful teachers and it is not reasonable to blame all NKT teachers for the shortcomings of some NKT teachers.

The new Internal Rules 12§2 and 12§3 establishe guidelines for overseeing the behavior of teachers, to increase their accountability for their actions.

Smear: In the NKT you can become a teacher very quickly, without experience or qualifications

Truth: This is not true. To be a teacher in the New Kadampa Tradition, one has to have some personal experience of the teachings and meditations in order to be most effective in helping others spiritually.

This complaint generally arises in the minds of those who feel that all Dharma teachers need to be Geshes who have studied for decades in monasteries, or the nearest Western equivalent. However, the NKT never claims that its teachers are already fully trained or perfect. They are students themselves. Until they attain enlightenment, NKT teachers are in training, making effort daily to improve their own moral discipline, concentration and wisdom, as well as their compassion and love for their students (which are also the minimum commitments for a Mahayana Spiritual Guide as explained in Lamrim, the stages of the path).

When most people go to local yoga classes, for instance, they do not insist on being taught only by those who have perfected every yoga asana over many years’ training. Their only expectation is for their teacher to know more than them, and to be a few steps ahead.

Some teachers in the NKT have been studying and practicing for decades and have a vast depth of knowledge and experience. Others have been studying and practicing for only a few years. However, although there are a variety of NKT teachers, all of them are the same and effective insofar as they are acting as spiritual friends, simply teaching pure Dharma to help students find a happy life in accordance with the tradition of Buddha Shakyamuni, Je Tsongkhapa and Atisha as presented in the West by Geshe Kelsang.


Taking Down the Smears

What is a Kadampa?

A Kadampa is someone who integrates their knowledge of all Buddha's teachings into their everyday lives. Find out more in the booklet Modern Kadampa Buddhism

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Internal Rules