I felt lucky, finding what I had been looking for for 25 years. Not since I lived in Manhattan did I find myself living so close to a weekly gathering of Buddhists.
My initial unfamiliarity quickly gave way to joyful fascination with the majesty of Tibetan Buddhism - far more intricate and liturgical than my 30+ years with Zen Buddhism. Juxtapositioned with introductory meditations and Buddhist precepts were mesmerizing, sometimes thrilling, stories about Atisha, Tsongkhapa and many other Tibetan holy men who were dedicated to spiritual accomplishments. Two songs were beautiful and inspiring, and I looked forward to hearing them and some of the stirring voices singing them around me - Liberating Prayer and Nine Migtsema Prayer (I even bought the sheet music to play at home). The atmosphere was warm and friendly.
My attendance and participation 2-3 times a week became a welcome routine. Yearning to learn more I asked questions and eventually purchased and read intensely all of the spiritual leader's books. Fine books - inspiring and thought provoking, generating deeper questions for my teachers.
I became a center sponsor and contributed additional donations for the remarkably few fundraisers. It was impressive that the teachings were not a cliche cover for a cash register.
The liturgical events (pujas and weekend retreats) were captivating. Thematic meditations and deeper didactic details blended with an embracing sense of community purpose. Of course, the 'party' sessions afterwards were super for their tasty vegetarian and sweet treats and feel of binding comaraderie. And a great time to ask my questions.
One liturgy was as somber as it was mind opening - a phowa (transference of mind after death). A delicate time for everyone - to contemplate, to learn and ultimately to help someone who had recently passed away to possibly find their way along their path of destiny. I delved deeper into the books of the spiritual leader, over half of which deal with tantra (a part of which explains the phowa liturgy).
The experience enhanced my determination to contribute to the center's plan to build a temple for world peace. I decided to help and even fund the project it seemed so vital. What I felt possible with this center and its new temple compelled my decision. Indeed, the world needs love and points of light. The new temple could offer immense focus for compassion and spiritual development. I saw great opportunity to help others in a way I had never considered. I appreciated my new sense of urgency but far more important I saw how the community could be bolstered with Buddha's teachings and their implementation to help others and unite us.
A few months passed. New meaning entered by life. I was thankful.
But, an inner voice began to whisper, then speak. I became concerned with what seemed a tendency to teach selfishness. There was never any interest to actually implement compassion. The teachings seemed to focus on our individual happiness a little too much. I realized that my questions were not being answered but instead deflected and evaded. I began to realize no one was helping anyone. It was everyone getting what they could get for themselves with rationalizations of merit, karma, relief of their suffering and increasing their happiness. Such attitude was counter-cultural for me and the antithesis of Buddhism.
To aid my determination to learn and address my inner voices I did considerable research into the spiritual leader's books and formulated my questions for the resident teacher in writing so as to be clear, efficient and footnoted. The email reply was for me to seek answers at the center's events. 'Put nothing in writing' I thought to myself. The answers became more and more like a cleverly disguised brick wall.
Only then did I begin internet searches for my answers. At first, a few Google returns. Then, as I better defined my key word searches, an avalanche of Google web links - about the horrifying menace that the spiritual leader and his inner circle had become against Tibetan Buddhism and The Dalai Lama. There were also riveting exposes of sexual misconduct in the inner circle, including 2 named heirs to the throne being kicked out. At first, I could not believe my eyes. Presumably, Google had sent me to a nightmarish parallel universe created by demons. The Geshe Kelsang Gyatso and the New Kadampa Tradition I had learned about seemed far removed from the hell I was now seeing discussed in newspapers, Time, Newsweek and internet web sites. I tried asking my resident teacher - gently - about some of this. Now, the deflection and evasion was a brick wall of arrogance.
Rather than bury myself in the blindness I let it go, returning to my life long thread of beginner's mind and compassion. Last year, I attended a 3-day Mahamudra retreat led by Kadam Lucy James, trying to rekindle the beauty of my initial experiences. Lucy was aloof. She seemed tired. Instead of preparing for the 3-day retreat properly, while she started ok, as the sessions progressed they became increasingly filled with broken promises of what would be covered, 'busy work' meditations and an air of hostility. Like before, I let it go.
Then, in April (3 months ago), I learned in an email from the center that Lucy was no longer the resident teacher. Unlike before when she moved elsewhere as a resident teacher, this time there was no word about where Lucy was going. This stunned me, having figured out already that Lucy was a major operator in NKT. So, back to Google I went. Gyatso's attack against Buddhism and The Dalai Lama had exploded in what seemed Gyatso's last ego trip. In early July, Gyatso's attack machine downshifted into hyper-drive, inaugurating its smear web site newkadampatruth.org. Now, was NKT not only attacking the Tibetan head of state and reincarnate spiritual leader for almost 400 years, NKT was officially going after other Tibetan Lamas, including one who died in 1984 (see). Worst of all, NKT had targeted a handful of individuals with defamatory descriptions because they had questioned NKT's cult-like campaign of hate.
A profound, sad and sickening state of affairs. Passersby and TV viewers now see ugly finger-pointing name-calling protests created by NKT as a non-political political assault, turning the public away from Buddhism. NKT is projecting the world's most despicable portrait of religiosity.
Shame on you NKT. Shame on you Gyatso. You are causing immense suffering and harm - only to blame it on our karma and our dilusions (deflecting and evading your path to spiritual fruition).
So much potential sqandered. So many of the teachings in Gyatso's books and at your centers are wonderful and could help many lead better lives. Instead, you desire ego dominance. Your legacy may regretfully become one of paranoid lunacy and a mara of Buddhism. Your remaining followers will likely fall from the love they now feel. Hoping it is not too late, I pray that NKT will abandon its protests against and caustic attacks of Buddhists. Please recommit yourselves toward compassion and wisdom.
(observers of NKT and especially its monks, nuns, members and new folks, please take a little time and watch this - the more you know about NKT the more this cult video will explain. Mind Control Cults video on youtube)
I found this comment in a blog overwhelmed by NKT news. Representative of countless blog posts it captures what I have learned. It would appear that few agree with NKT.
"Sacrilegiously, the haters call themselves New Kadampa(truth).
However, New Kadampa is a Tibetan Buddhism assembled by Tsongkhapa. But, they boast in their (truth) web site, corroborated by their RTs and Dekyong, that they are not Tibetan Buddhists. They are not Chinese Buddhists, nor Zen, nor Thai, nor Vietnamese, nor British, nor American, nor any other respected Buddhist form or ethical society. They are alone. They are rejectionists. They reject the fruits of wisdom and compassion.
But, they hoist Shugden above all, except possibly illicit and
widening sexual trysts by their ordained 'celibates'. They defile Buddha, Dharma and Sangha, preferring the attachment gratification of PR planning and spurious demonization of the world's Buddhists. When they are faced with the expulsion of the Sera Monastary, they say 'so what'.
Politically, against the Dalai Lama and most Tibetan Buddhists, they
are most closely linked with the Chinese government. They protest by
their side. They turn to ugly protests, defamatory official and unofficial
web sites, a scandalous booklet called The Tibetan Situation Today, a
lawsuit in India, distortions, complaining to Yahoo about
slander/libel against well meaning folks who realized, usually after painful years of servitude and escalating suffering, that they needed to leave NKT on behalf of their sanity and the Three Jewels.
Their PR campaign is trying to ruin the good name of Buddhism and the
Dalai Lama and other Buddhist leaders, turning away many who
watch the disgusting angry protests and read/watch the hateful abrasive commentary of Pema/Helen Gladwell
Their lies, haunting at first, will likely extinguish whatever good they could have offered themselves or the rest of us. Ultimately, seemingly intent on doing so in his destructive ego
battle, GKG may come to be seen as a new mara.
May their viciousness dissolve."