In his struggle against his perceived competitors the last 20 years, Kelsang Gyatso reveals that he is more a product of his anti-Buddhist and anti-Tibetan political lineage than a legitimate spiritual lineage.
Like a predator, Kelsang Gyatso entices new followers with candies and misinformation, implementing his theory that Westerners distraught with the spiritual void in our contemporary society are susceptible to his sugar-coated fiction. Sadly, sometimes, he appears to be correct. Inside NKT, ego trumps spirituality and Shugden defense trumps integrity.
Kelsang Gyatso's followers present themselves as fierce Shugden warriors at NKT's public protests and through NKT's Internet war against their perceived competitors, ex clergy, ex members and academics assessing NKT's troubles spiraling NKT faithful toward malice and intensified suffering.
Although Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara asked Buddha Shakyamuni in 483 BC not to die because he had yet visited Tibet, thus adorning Tibet with a special holy status, Tibet has been beleaguered by internal political battles through most of its existence. Today, NKT's assault, beginning in the mid 1990s, is an external media-centric political foe and most vocal opponent of Avalokiteshvara's Tibet.
In 618 AD, Songzen Gampo ascended to the throne and eventually unified and created Tibet from a vast mountainous region of nomads and shamanism, a land having little economic appeal. He built the first 2 Buddhist temples in Tibet, Ramoche and Jokhang.
In 763, Songzen Gampo's great great grandson, Trisong Detsen, invited 2 great Indian Buddhist masters to Tibet, Santaraksita and Padmasambhava, and with their help founded Tibet's first monastery at Samye. Padmasambhava defeated the obstacles encountered by Santarasksita, taming these indigenous wrathful spirits to become 'Protectors of the Dharma'.
In 792, Santarasksita and Padmasambhava defeated the Chinese in debate. Thus, their Indian Buddhism rather than Chinese Buddhism became the dominate influence on Buddhism's development in Tibet.
Trisong Detsen's son and heir, Tri-Ralpalchen, signed a treaty with early China (Tang) in 822, wherein it is stated, "And in order that this agreement establishing a great era when Tibetans shall be happy in Tibet and Chinese shall be happy in China shall never be changed, the Three Jewels, the body of saints, the sun and moon, planets and stars have been invoked as witnesses."
However, Tri-Ralpalchen was killed by his brother Lang Dharma who, perhaps feeling the growing political powers of Buddhist monks, sided with followers of the Bon religion (the indigenous religion of Tibet before Songzen Gampo). After Lang Dharma, Tibet disintegrated. Regions fought with each other as nobles and powerful monasteries battled for regional control. 250 years of a relatively stable central Tibetan government was replaced by an era of factionalism.
Fortunately, during the 11th century, Nyingma (followers of Padmasambhava), Sakya (followers of Drogmi), Kagyu (followers of Marpa and Milarepa) and Kadam (followers of Atisha) schools of Tibetan Buddhism emerged, growing to characterize Tibetan society as an inward looking religious state (a status, however, that is vulnerable to sectarian, political, imperial and economic exploitation). Ironically, Tibetan Buddhism wounded, perhaps fatally, Tibetan nationalism (at least in conventional ways).
Each school progressed in their growth, attracting patrons from powerful regional lords. Eventually, compromised ideals became the price as monasteries grew in size, wealth and administrative complexity. Spiritual principles and austerity became augmented with pomp and ritual...and lust for power. Religious orders feuded and warred with each other over politics and economics. Central government influence declined in favor of monks and regents looking out for their own interests rather than the whole of Tibet. Central government development and allegiance was secondary to inter-regional politics and conflict. A Tibetan nation was considered secondary to monastic and sectarian growth.
With grossly inadequate military defense, resistance was futile, first against Muslim invasions and then against the Mogul empire. As monasteries and monks became very wealthy, accumulating much gold in the name of tantra, the public lost their respect for them. The worst of human nature prevailed - corruption, dirty politics and the insatiable thirst for wealth and power.
Fortuitously, Moguls obliterated those who resisted and because Tibet could not fight back, the Moguls chose a far smoother form of influence in Tibet.
Prince Godan, grandson of Genghis Khan, had heard about and was impressed by the spiritual powers of a Sakya monk, Sakya Pandita - ultimately appointed viceroy for central Tibet by Genghis Khan (eastern provinces of Tibet, which resisted Mongol incursions, were attacked and ruled directly by the Mongols).
Prince Godan was succeeded by Kublai Khan and Sakya Pandita was succeeded by Phagpa. Mogul patronage of Phagpa's Tibetan Buddhism spread Tibetan Buddhism throughout the Mogul empire.
The Mongols used Phagpa and other patronized monks to garner political influence in Tibet. Phagpa, a spiritual leader, directed the governance of a subject country as an ally and vassal of the Moguls.
In 1352, a regional chief killed the Sakya leader and replaced the Sakya administration.
In 1358, the Mongols accepted Changchub Gyaltsen as Tibet's viceroy, who died in 1364, replaced by his nephew, Phamo Drup, under whom Tibet regained its independence (as the Mongol empire waned).
In 1357, Tsongkhapa was born and became a monk at the age of 10, later becoming upset with the ethical decay amongst monks and their battles for supremacy. Some monasteries had grown their assemblies to over 10,000 monks.
Tsongkhapa restored the Vinaya (monastic vows), stressed academic excellence and reinvigorated Atisha's Kadam teachings, formed a New Kadampa order which would eventually lead to the Gelugpa school, and built the first Gelugpa monastery, Ganden.
One of Tsongkhapa's followers, Gendundrup, became the first Dalai Lama, who was reincarnated as the abbot of the Drepung monastery, Gendun Gyatso, the 2nd Dalai Lama.
Despite his reservations, Tsongkhapa's followers founded more monasteries, growing into monastic cities and becoming the largest, wealthiest and most powerful in Tibet. Because the Gelugpa acquired immense political influence, the leaders of the order became the rulers of Tibet.
The third Dalai Lama, Sonam Gyatso, was born in 1543, later becoming the abbot of Sera monastery. In 1578, he traveled to Mongolia, where Altan Khan coined the name Dalai Lama, a Mogul translation of Sonam Gyatso's name and meaning 'the wonderful Vajradhara, good splendid meritorious ocean'. The third Dalai Lama converted Altan Khan to Buddhism (while Mogul leaders had become Tibetan Buddhists a couple hundred years earlier, they relapsed into their indigenous shamanism). Politically savvy, the third Dalai Lama proclaimed that he was the reincarnation of Phagpa and that Altan Khan was the reincarnation of Kublai Khan, conferring historical legitimacy to the two rising stars. Thereby, the third Dalai Lama merged religious and political power. The third Dalai Lama died in 1588, reborn the fourth Dalai Lama in Mongolia as the grandson of Altan Khan (the 4th Dalai Lama died in 1617 in his twenties).
As the Gelugpa school grew large, the other schools saw the Gelugpa as a threat to their power, leading to sectarianism and inter-monastery fights over wealth and control. Nevertheless, by the 1570s, the rising power of the Gelugpa had reached a critical mass and maintained their position in Tibetan rule.
In 1617, Ngawang Lozsang Gyatso, the 5th Dalai Lama (The Great Fifth) was born. He reunified Tibet in 1642 after centuries of factionalism. His chief attendant, Sonam Rapten, skillfully used Mongol military muscle, headed by Mogul Prince Gushri Kahn, to quell resistance in eastern provinces of Tibet, including killing the king of Tsang. Gushri Kahn provided the military power that held Tibet together.
Because the 6th through the 12th Dalai Lamas either died very young or were weak, corruption reigned and monastic institutions and sectarianism became an obstacle to development of Tibet.
The 13th Dalai Lama was born in 1876. By the end of his life, Tibet had reunified and regained (again) its independence. Diligently though sometimes abrasively, he worked for government reform, democracy, defending Tibet, creating a modern military and dealing with elements of Tibetan society, most notably monastic 'conservatives', that resisted his mission.
'Conservative' resistance dramatically increased when he tried to impose a 25% tax on the monastery of the 9th Panchen Lama, a premier Gelugpa. The Panchen Lama fled to China, causing much political anguish in the populace. Monks argued that a military defense was an anathema to Buddhism.
The 13th Dalai Lama was effectively forced to relinquish his vision for Tibet, which thus lost its best chance to create a modern state to survive in the modern world.
How the Tibetan government handled the invasion of the communist Chinese assault beginning in 1950 is a tragic joke (in 1950, the current Dalai Lama, the 14th, was 13 years old, notable because NKT nonsensically blames the Dalai Lama for the Chinese invasion because he recommended others not to worship Shugen in the mid 1990s). For example, when on October 7, 1950, 40,000 Chinese troops were flowing freely into Tibet, a radio message warning to 'headquarters' produced the response that government ministers could not be disturbed from their picnic.
Without a modern defense, Tibet could not effectively repel the Chinese invasion of the 1950s (in 1959, the 14th Dalai Lama, fled Tibet to help end the bloodshed; with India's invitation, the Dalai Lama and his government officials organized the Tibet Government in Exile in Dharamsala, India).
In the face of internal corruption, most notably by the Dalai Lama's regent Reting Rinpoche, the Tibetan government could not focus.
Reting Rinpoche effectively unraveled the legacy of the 13th Dalai Lama by, along with supporters in large monasteries, dismissed concerns about the already building Chinese assaults on its neighbors, and worse.
Because of corruption in office, Reting Rinpoche was forced to leave office in favor of Taktra Rinpoche, the Dalai Lama's tutor.
Taktra Rinpoche "took a more anti-Chinese stance than Reting Rinpoche had, and this policy may have created opposition to Taktra Rinpoche in some circles. Reting Rinpoche soon became involved in a plot to murder the older regent. The power struggle came to a head when Taktra Rinpoche saw inconvertible evidence that Reting Rinpoche had approached the Chinese Kuomintang government bo Chiang Kai-shek, agreeing to sign a treaty surrendering Tibetan sovereignty if China would provide Reting Rinpoche with military assistance against his enemies in Tibet, after Taktra Rinpoche was murdered. But Taktra moved first, and bloody fighting raged for several weeks in April 1947. Thousands of monk supporters of Reting Rinpoche revolted against the regent, and gun battles erupted around Lhasa. The Taktra regency finally defeated the rebels and Reting Rinpoche was captured, interrogated, and, before any sentence could be passed, murdered in the dungeons of the Potala." (excerpt from The Story of Tibet by Thomas Laird)
By the way, the current Dalai Lama was 10 years at the time, enthroned in 1940 when he was 3.
Notably, NKT views Reting Rinpoche with admiration and thrives on rewriting history in its favor. For example, click here.
NKT considers the Communist Government in China its ally in Shugden promotion and against the Dalai Lama and Tibet
The following Internet posts from NKTites are common...
“And wouldn't China promote it bigger and better than anyone. After all they have economic power base that is growing by the month. We have to look beyond this generation alone. We have to look at China and her relationship with Dorje Shugden long after the Dalai Lama has passed on…China is making Dorje Shugden bigger and bigger."
"Then from China, Dorje Shugden’s practice will spread to the multitudes of Chinese speaking areas of Asia, then the world. Everyone respects China either for monetary, business or cultural reasons. It is after all one of the greatest cultures known to man past and present. It will be the number one culture in the world as it has been in ancient times in the near future due to economic growth. Everything Chinese will be respected and proliferated in the world. In the near future, the tide will turn towards the east and that is China. Everything Chinese will be sought after, praised and valued. Even today, many governments do not wish to offend the Chinese government in hopes of securing lucrative deals. After all, isn’t bringing prosperity one of the main functions of any government whether Democratic or Socialist?…making Dorje Shugden the most popularly known Buddhist deity next to Kuan Yin in China at this time."
(the following paragraphs include quotes from Memoirs of a Tibetan Lama by Lobsang Gyatso)
Although "The (13th) Dalai Lama had many plans for far-reaching reforms but was not able to implement them because, although he faced no open opposition, when it came to implementing his policies his officials pursued a policy of noncooperation...aristocratic government officials presented a loyal front, while harboring other thoughts in their hearts."
"It was at this time also that religious problems associated with the spirit Shugden arose...There are many stories about how he (the 13th Dalai Lama) attempted to show Phabonkha Rinpoche that propitiation of the spirit was going to lead to trouble. Phabonkha Rinpoche did not follow the Dalai Lama's advice and got attached to the spirit...The lack of esteem from the learned monks was a ground for some friction and a cause for Phabongkha Rinpoche to feel slighted."
"So much that the Dalai Lama intended to do was not done, and great was the irritation that he had to put up with."
Presciently, the 13th Dalai Lama said, "I am soon to die. But I will return and when I do I will reincarnate in a form that will teach the dharma even more excellently than the seventh Dalai Lama, Kalsang Gyatso (not to be confused with NKT's Kelsang Gyatso), and as a person who will be even more skillful in politics than the fifth Dalai Lama, Ngawang Gyatso...I have no wish to return, but the intense requests of the Tibetan people prompt me to take another rebirth. But if needed reforms are not implemented, it will surely come about that Tibetans will no longer have the right to use the property that is their own and to live in houses that are their own houses."
Lobsang Gyatso noted, "My point about the governing of Tibet in the period leading up to the Communist invasion is essentially this: even though the whole world was adapting to meet the challenges of modernity, the officials of the Tibetan government were stuck in old ways and did not change at all."
"Prior to the Chinese Communist takeover (1959) this problem of sectarianism was endemic. In monasteries in Kham, in Amdo, and in central Tibet as well there were internecine fights. It seems...that it happened in those places where the followers of the spirit Shugden were more active and numerous. In Drepung (monastery) there was a body of opinion, sometimes voiced, that the outcome of following Shugden would be problems and disturbanc...with the way things have come to pass, it is clear that indeed there was a truth in what those people were trying to convey."
Pertaining to the Chinese invasion, General Top, Phabonkha's business manager and virtually clueless about defending a nation according to some, "had the mind of a labrang agent, not the mind of a military leader...and was ignorant of...how to make real preparation."
"Tibet was lost because the central government took the unruly border Tibetans in Amdo and Kham to be sniping at China, goading her to respond with an invasion. If everyone took it easy the problem would go away, they thought. They did not think of the Chinese Communists as bad. "They are human beings, after all," they said with compassion.
Too much a belief in Buddhism and an inflated notion of their own country: that explains how they came to have such silly ideas. Even as they sat there, with the words of the Thirteenth Dalai Lama still fresh on his document before them, they ignored reality."
(NKT views Phabonkha and Shugden as well as Reting Rinpoche and the communist Chinese government as its role models)
As for the 14th Dalai Lama's views of politics and religion, the Dalai Lama believes that monks should be above politics and institutions of religion and institutions of politics should be separated. His many offers to step down as Tibet's historical head of state have not been accepted by the Tibet Government in Exile, struggling for its existence in a host country while praying for return to their home country. The Dalai Lama believes that without resolution with China before his death, the next manifestation of Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara in the line of Dalai Lamas dating back to the time of Tsongkhapa will be found outside of Tibet.
Avalokiteshvara, Buddha of Compassion, represented by the Dalai Lama
Avalokiteshara's holy plan for Tibet may be in jeopardy, exacerbated by the global assault and cancerous metastasis of NKT...
And, by NKT's alluring tantra proclivities that have harmed many,
And, by NKT's other preoccupation, its so-called charities,
NKT is captivated by ego, and repelled by compassion.
Tibetan Buddhism is not simply an idealistic and peaceful lineage of spiritual practitioners and teachers isolated from the foibles of human nature and social, political and military adventurism. Tibetan Buddhism is intimately linked with guru-patron relationships, wherein temporal rulers and conquerors garner political influence and spiritual legitimacy from monasteries, which thereby secure the means to develop their infrastructures and spheres of influence - effectively feudalizing regions of Tibet which in turn expressed themselves through factionalism/sectarianism. Military powers and lords became benefactors of Tibetan Buddhism as guardians of Tibetan Buddhism became political and military agents (e.g., the so-called protector Shugden was deployed by Tibetan sectarianists to harm rivals of the purportedly pure school of Buddhism, which Kelsang Gyatso is attempting to export outside of Tibet as his enterprise protests against the Dalai Lama and castigates any Buddhist not swearing allegiance to NKT's principle deity, Shugden).
Tibet's source for its Buddhism, India, effectively crystallized the model.
"Seeking legitimacy and identity, Indian kings from all areas began to increase their patronage of literature and strategize their support of religion, searching for religious counselors that could bolster their political and military agendas...the early medieval period is marked by the apotheosis of kings, who assumed the positions of divinities or their incarnations and manifestations. The corollary to this was the feudalization of divinity, wherein the gods became perceived as warlords and the rulers of the earth...They occupied positions in metaphysical space analogous to the positions controlled by their devotees in terrestrial space, with all the attendant rights and responsibilities...In erecting the new temple complexes, kings became patrons to the new divinities that commanded the areas under the rulers' political control. Thus the new temples...became testaments to royal legitimacy...The net result was that the sacred zones became the palaces of of the gods and the temples of the kings, with both enjoying feudal privileges over the domain under the temple control...with the simultaneous change of patronage and rules of survival, many Buddhist monasteries began to assume the position of landed fiefdoms, with a growth in net size of some of the great monasteries and the new development of the 'supermonastery'...Earlier, Buddhists had relied on the statements in the scriptures and had followed a well-worn process of consensual affirmation of Buddhist doctrine. In the medieval period, however, these same fundamentals apparently lacked the resonance and strength previously afforded them...Buddhist monasteries began to emulate the very political forms that caused them their distressing decline in the subcontinent - the samanta feudal system. From the seventh century until the complete collapse of Buddhist monasteries in the fourteenth century, Buddhist institutions became feuda for the abbots and the monks...The search for new kinds of patronage placed monasteries in the position of assuming many of the characteristics of the society around them. They gained stature as landed feudal lords, collected rents and taxes and exercising judicial powers in their domains. As a result, the monasteries began to internalize many of the same value systems that the external society reflected. They affirmed a greater esteem for political power and began to see power as an avenue for the advancement of their agenda. They furthered the weakening of support for women's religious expression, withdrawing resources from nuns and dissuading women from donning the red robe. They became enamored of the new authority of non-Buddhist epistemological discourse and placed it in a position of prominence in the curriculum of the large teaching monasteries...There appears no exception to the rule that, when the Mantrayana becomes culturally important outside India, it is principally through the agency of official patronage, either aristocratic or imperial." (Ronald M. Davidson, Indian Esoteric Buddhism: A Social History of the Tantric Movement)
Kelsang Gyatso's affinity for sectarianism, drive to dominate and animosity toward peaceful consensus is effectively 'the same old story' of any captive of ego.
(pertaining to the weakening of women discussed above, a glimpse into Kelsang Gyatso's erroneous and pejorative view that women are the primal source of pain appears in his book, Transform Your Life; "Inside our mother's womb it is hot and dark. Our home for nine months is this small, tightly compressed space full of unclean substances. It is like being squashed inside a small water tank full of filthy liquid with the lid tightly shut so that no air or light can come through...While we are in our mother's womb we experience much pain and fear on our own...When she walks quickly it feels as if we are falling from a high mountain and we are terrified. If she has sexual intercourse if feels as if we are being crushed and suffocated between two huge weights and we panic...If she drinks anything hot it feels like boiling water scalding our skin, and if she drinks anything cold it feels like an ice-cold shower in midwinter. When we are emerging from our mother's womb it feels as if we are being forced through a narrow crevice between two hard rocks...we bring only pain and confusion from our mother's womb. Whatever we hear is as meaningless as the sound of wind, and we cannot comprehend anything we perceive...The only signs we can make are hot tears and furious gestures. Our mother has no idea what pains and discomforts we are experiencing.")
We thank this essayist for exploring a geopolitical relevance as other essayists have explored a spiritual relevance for Kelsang Gyatso's unilateral feud with the Dalai Lama, Tibetan Buddhism and the religious state of Tibet.
The torch of sectarianism now most prominently carried by Kelsang Gyatso has been the greatest impediment to Tibet, Tibetans and Tibetan Buddhism the last thousand years.
Kelsang Gyatso argues and protests for a fictional and counterproductive Shugden-centric history of Tibet, such that, according to the Kelsang Gyastso delusion, the fate of Tibet, Tibetans, Tibetan Buddhism and all forms of Buddhism are in the hands of Kelsang Gyatso's interpretation of purity and NKT's main practice, Shugdenism.
Notably, the only audience that Kelsang Gyatso can recruit is Westerners who, unfamiliar with the detrimental history of Shugdenism, are relatively easy to misguide with NKT's alluring promises of easy nirvana through NKT's tantra and NKT's slick media campaign of an apparent peaceful version of Buddhism that at its core is sinister and vengeful (exemplified, in part, by NKT's caustic protests around the world and NKT's Internet web sites and blog posts).
Most eventually leave NKT, sometimes after substantial trauma and fear, sometimes after intervention from loved ones, sometimes after sexual abuse, sometimes after donating all their savings, sometimes expelled from NKT's government-subsidized housing or from attendance at its meditation centers, sometimes ridiculed on its web sites or in its prolific blog posts.