As NKT says again and again, NKT is not, nor a form of, Tibetan Buddhism. While NKT borrows the legitimacy of Tibetan Buddhism, it is severed from Tibetan Buddhism.
NKT's so-called tradition began out of thin air in 1991 in reaction against and taking over the headquarters of the Tibetan Buddhist organization known as the Foundation for the Preservation of the Mahayana Tradition, which adheres to Tibetan Buddhism.
About FPMT, NKT says...
"no one who holds any position in the FPMT organization is a Dorje Shugden practitioner."
FPMT's Manjushri Institute in England converted by NKT to its global headquarters.
Beyond its commercial plans, NKT strives to westernize its version of a feared Tibetan ghost named Shugden, which has been embroiled since the 1600s in sordid ritualistic, political and violent purposes.
According to Kelsang Gyatso, NKT's primary deity Shugden (which NKT so desperately protects and considers far more important than Tibetans do the Tibetan Shugden ghost) and the great Tibetan Lama Tsongkhapa are the same being. (this is a saddening disgrace to Tsongkhapa, his teachings and his legacy; few if any Tibetans consider Shugden and Tsongkhapa similar)
As Newsweek reported in 1997, Kelsang Gyatso, a Tibetan, began his western shugden cult in 1991, breaking away from Tibetan Buddhism in favor of starting a commercial enterprise that looked and sounded like Tibetan Buddhism, though with primary allegiance to Kelsang Gyatso's shugden invention.
While NKT's founder, born in Tibet, trained intensively in Tibetan Buddhism for many decades before leaving Tibet and Tibetan exile in India to take up residence in England, Kelsang Gyatso was severely admonished and excommunicated by the monastery in which he was studying for the Geshe degree, which he never received, and so awarded himself his version of a Geshe degree just as he teaches his unique version of Tibetan Buddhism in the west (see Gyatso's 'credentials' and statements of Sera Je Monastery about Kelsang Gyatso here).
Kelsang Gyatso has named 3 heirs, the first two cast out by Kelsang Gyatso after years of his denial (possibly cover up) of their sexual misconduct (but no apologies to the victims).
Kelsang Khyenrab was supposed to take over August 2009, when Kelsang Gyatso said he would retire. NKT's summer festival in July touted Kelsang Gyatso's last mass tantra empowerment in view of his pending retirement, and NKT produced several videos about Kelsang Gyatso on his way out the door. NKT was to be led by its second leader, Kelsang Khyenrab. (as of December 2009, Kelsang Gyatso has yet to retire)
Kelsang Khyenrab posing with NKT's political manifesto, The Tibetan Situation Today
Over the last year or so of Kelsang Khyenrab's final preparation, NKT took to the streets to march against the legacy of Tibetan Buddhism and Tibet. While NKT denies it, NKT is essentially all about Tibet and its religious and political histories.
One of many NKT political marches around the world
Beyond Kelsang Gyatso's books, like 'Cliff Notes' of Tibetan Buddhism laced with fantasy and criticism of modern society, Kelsang Khyenrab has little if any experience with traditional Buddhist training (traditional Buddhist books and scriptures are not used inside NKT, including the voluminous works of Tsongkhapa).
Kelsang Khyenrab was ordained as a monk by Kelsang Gyatso according to a set of rules designed by Kelsang Gyatso rather than any set of legitimate monastic rules used the past 2,500 years. As his 'teachings', Kelsang Gyatso's monastic rules are like 'Cliff Notes' of traditional monastic rules of Tibetan Buddhism. Kelsang Gyatso has not awarded Kelsang Khyenrab a NKT-brand geshe degree or any other title other than his (most recent) heir designate.
The next leader of NKT, a couple years after Kelsang Khyenrab is finally installed, is likely to be Kelsang Dekyong, now NKT's leader in the United States, where NKT has more subsidiaries than anywhere else.
Kelsang Dekyong megaphoning from NKT's political manifesto, The Tibetan Situation Today
Kelsang Dekyong's preparation is similar to that of Kelsang Khyenrab.
Neither has anyone else in NKT accomplished traditional Buddhist training, Geshe training or monk training. NKT considers its 'Cliff Notes' sufficient training to produce a new school of Buddhism. No one in NKT adheres to the Buddhist or monk training of Tsongkhapa. If they did, they would be banned and ridiculed.
NKT's alleged tradition - more a political machine than not - can hardly be considered to derive from or adhere to the lineage of Tibetan or any other form of Buddhism.
NKT says on its web site...
"Gen-la Kelsang Khyenrab is the Spiritual Director of the NKT and the Resident Teacher at Manjushri KMC, the Mother Center of Kadampa Buddhism. Gen-la has studied and practiced Kadampa Buddhism since 1980 under the guidance of his Spiritual Guide Venerable Geshe Kelsang Gyatso. He is a perfect example of a Kadampa Teacher."
Thus, perhaps Kelsang Gyatso has acutally retired, while remaining at Manjushri. However, the version of Kadampa marketed by NKT has little resemblence to real Kadampa Buddhism, a Tibetan school of Buddhism.
Notably, Kadampa Buddhism refers to a school of Tibetan Buddhism, which NKT says it is not.
Thus, it is an enigma that NKT says...
"Kadampa Buddhism is a Mahayana Buddhist school founded by the great Indian Buddhist Master Atisha (AD 982-1054). In the word, ‘Kadampa’, ‘Ka’ refers to Buddha’s teachings, and ‘dam’ to Atisha’s special Lamrim instructions. Kadampas, then, are practitioners who regard Buddha’s teachings as personal instructions and put them into practice by following the instructions of Lamrim."
This statement is essentially true, though does not mention that Kadampa Buddhism refers to a school of Tibetan Buddhism. Furthermore, NKT widely castigates on its many web sites the Foundation for the Preservation of the Mahayana Tradition.
Certainly, NKTites are not Kadampas as envisioned by Atisha, Tsongkhapa and Tibetan Buddhists.
For the first time in NKT history, its Director is not claimed to be a Buddha, enlightened being, geshe or trained in Tibetan or conventional Buddhism. Kelsang Khyenrab is instead a political activist for NKT's futile protector, Shugden.
Kelsang Khyenrab still under umbrella, protecting him from the truth
(photo right - Kelsang Dekyong holding NKT's political manifesto, The Tibetan Situation Today)