If you do seek out an NKT center, they will greet you with big smiles at the door and tell you exactly what you want to hear. Your first impression will be that you've found the right place.
If being in a cult is what you're looking for, indeed you have. This isn't to say that long-term NKT members and teachers aren't well-intentioned, because they are; but does any cult member actually realize they are in one?
Here are some examples that should raise red flags.
The Buddha said "If the teacher asks for money, run." Well, NKT initially only asks for an $8 to $10 donation for a meditation session, but soon enough, you'll be "gently" pressured to attend one of many frequent special teachings, which can range from $25 to $75 for a half or full day session. Next, you'll be "gently" pressured to attend NKT Festivals, which seem to occur monthly. This will involve traveling to the big national centers where the teachings can cost as much as $165 per day, per person, plus $60 per day, per person for accommodations. Furthermore, to get intermediate or advanced Dharma teachings at your local center, it will cost $50 or $100 per month, respectively. After one year with NKT, I realized it had cost me in excess of $2,000.
Most importantly, NKT has gone to war with His Holiness and follow him around the world, mixing religion and politics as the self-important Kelsang Gyatso, tries to discredit the Dalai Lama.
These actions are as far from the Dharma as is HUMANLY possible.
Google "Dalai Lama" and "NKT" and "demonstration" to learn more.
Kelsang Gyatso has point-blank stated that "Buddhism is dead in Tibet" ...which is music to Chinese ears. Google this too.
Buddhism is not dead in Tibet, but was forced to go underground because of the repressive (communist Chinese) government.
Turning his (Gyatso) back on those unfortunate people is not very compassionate. There are no Tibetans other than Kelsang Gyatso in NKT. NKT has the largest number of ordained compared to any other Buddhist sect, but not one Tibetan. Guess why.
Reading any other author on the subject of Buddhism is discouraged. If you ask an NKT teacher about one, you will be told, "Why read that when you have everything you need in Kelsang Gyatso's books?"
With a subject as deep and profound as Dharma, how can only one author suffice?
Buddhism has been around for 2,500 years while Kelsang Gyatso started his cult about quarter century ago.
His writings trump all that has gone before him? Red flag! Red Flag!
What NKT is really about is the cult of personality; in this case, Kelsang Gyatso. He is not a "humble monk" as the Dalai Lama calls himself, but rather the head of a worldwide organization that is spreading quickly with a high number of very young, and admittedly well-intentioned monks and nuns, raising lots and lots of money to build the NKT "business" around the world. This includes, but is not limited to, non-Buddhist entities such as hotels, World Peace Cafes, etc.
He is also alternately referred to as an emanation of Manjushri or Je Tsongkhapa. Based on what?
Gyatso is at war with the Dalai Lama, the recognized emanation of Avalokiteshvara, the Buddha of Compassion.
Tibetans have expressed their horror with Gyatso's cult...
The letter to Gyatso from Sera Monastery offically expelling Gyatso is instructive and unequivocal.
"...His Holiness Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama, is the embodiment of
the compassion of all Buddhas, the golden flower in the land of
snows, Tibet, the form of the deity who has appeared in Tibet, the
representative of Buddha Shakyamuni, the spiritual leader of all
Buddhists in the world, and the great advocate of non-violence.
For those who come from the land of snow mountains, to find in His
Holiness our sacred source of refuge for this and future lives is
truly our inborn nature, like our eyes which give us sight and our innermost heart.
(referring to Gyatso)...Possessed by a terrible demon, without shame, embarrassment, or
modesty, he doesn't have even the slightest care or concern for any
of the commitments of the three vows [pratimoksha, bodhicitta, and
tantric] which he undertook.
He continuously broadcasts blatantly shameless mad pronouncements,
attacking with baseless slander His Holiness the Dalai Lama, whose
kindness for us, the people of Tibet, has been greater that the
Buddhas of the three times. These unimaginable statements which
defame the name of His Holiness have created an urgent adverse
situation which no Tibetan can tolerate.
Therefore, all those connected with Sera Je College, lamas and
tulkus, abbots, former executives, senior and junior geshes, together
with the leaders of the individual khangtsen [regional houses], all
together, in agreement, with one voice, hereby proclaim that on this
day, August 22, 1996, Kelsang Gyatso, the one with broken commitments
and wrong view, is cast out with the "ritual nine expulsions," and is
thereby banished from this place, and the being a part of the rule of
This means that we request all of our brothers and sisters, the
Tibetan people inside and outside Tibet, to completely sever any
relationship with him. Concerning the practice of worshiping divine
protectors at this Monastery in particular, the protector who was
directed by the previous great masters to advise, command, and look
after our Monastery is the Dharma protector Dregpa Chamsing [Dregs Pa
lCam Sring). Aside from this protector there has traditionally been
no worship of Dolgyal [Dorje Shugden].
These days, we keep in the honored position on the crown of our heads
the instructions of our Government, the great Ganden Potrang.
Therefore, all sangha who reside here, as evidence of their
commitment not to worship the protector Dolgyal, have freely signed
such a pledge, and offered it before the clear eye of His Holiness.
Beyond that, anyone who is not blind should be able to comprehend
this with their ordinary eye of understanding and mind of attachment
and aversion; as they say, no one needs a lamp to make things clear
in the light of the sun and moon.
For the future, we publicly make the strongest request to everyone
not to associate the good name of Sera Je Monastery with this holder
of broken commitments and wrong view."
Representatives of the Tibetan people echoed these sentiments.
For example, from the Freedom Movement, Youth Congress, Tibetan Women's Association and representatives of the Three Provinces Movement,
"… you are doomed life after life… telling others not to keep pictures of the Dalai Lmaa reveals that, although you wear the mask of a religious practitioner, in reality you are the running dog of China and Taiwan. Therefore, we the Tibetan people both inside and outside Tibet will unitedly stand against you as a source of harm to the spiritual and temporal affairs of Tibetans."
From Tibetans in Dharamsala to 'All the followers of Geshe Kelsang Gyatso,
"It is also a well-known fact that due to a slight disagreement on views with His Holiness the Dalai Lama, you had banned portraits of His Holiness in your business-oriented Dharma centers. This insane and demeanous (sic) act had caused disgrace to the Tibetans as a whole and is no better than the savageous acts of the Red Chinese. We, the six million Tibetans, solemnly denounce these ill-acts."
From Tibetan Community, Kathmandu, Nepal,
"We feel called upon ourselves to let you know of certain facts about him so that his impudent ravings do not lead astray well-meaning followers of the path….Your "guru" has the misguided audacity to challenge the omniscience of the Compassionate One to the utter disgust of us all."