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MORE NKT LAWSUIT THREATS

To: Venerable Geshe Kelsang Gyatso Rinpoche
28th April 2012

Dearest Geshe-la,
I wish to reassure you that you have always been, and always will be, my Spiritual Guide. I have tried to follow your teachings and example for 20 years now, and have achieved a level of inner peace and happiness that I never thought I would be able to experience. I have also strived over the last 20 years to help you further the spread of your precious Kadam Dharma throughout the world, and have helped you establish two Dharma Centres. I have also sought to teach Kadam Dharma as purely and sincerely as I could. I am, though, painfully aware of my many faults and am willing to acknowledge that I am possibly hopeless at becoming a pure dharma practitioner. Nevertheless, I can honestly say that I tried sincerely to develop a good heart and to keep a good intention whilst trying to practise what you taught me.

However, I now find myself the target of a myriad of false and malicious allegations, and of threats of litigation (all of them without foundation in law), from persons high up within the management of the New Kadampa Tradition, primarily because I and my colleagues tried to prevent the unjustified and uncaring actions of those persons with respect to the management of Maitreya Buddhist Centre in Bexhill, England. This centre has flourished for 6 years ever since you founded it, and has been a harmonious and successful community until our new Resident Teacher, Kelsang Chodor, arrived. Since then, Chodor, apparently with the full backing of the NKT Secretary, Steve Cowing, and others at NKT head office, have consistently undermined the harmony of the community and the efficient administration of the centre. This culminated in the precipitate sacking of Kelsang Sonam as an NKT teacher, without any explanation, despite the fact that he had energetically taught Kadam Dharma for 5 years at the centre and led many people into the NKT to become faithful students of your teachings through his inspiration and good example of moral discipline. He also served and supported our previous Resident Teacher, Kelsang Lam-ma with total loyalty and devotion. The suddenness of his sacking, the lack of transparency about it, and the later justification of it by smearing him as an impure teacher and an impure monk without any evidence for this and without any opportunity of challenging the smearing of his reputation, together with the abrupt cessation of his classes, naturally led myself and others at my centre to express their concerns to Kelsang Chodor, politely and with a willingness to talk about it and accept the decision if there was a clear and reasonable explanation given.

However, because of merely asking for discussion of this matter, I was myself abruptly sacked as an NKT teacher, again without any explanation and without any opportunity offered to discuss the matter with Chodor, and my class was abruptly stopped. Both I and, I suspect, Sonam were perfectly happy to accept not being NKT teachers as we are not attached to such a role, but what most grieved us was the loss of access of our students to Kadam Dharma, a loss which neither they nor the charity trustees of Maitreya Centre could rectify because all attempts to discuss the administration of the centre with Chodor were always rebuffed. Indeed, he has, together with some at NKT head office, sought to undermine the constitutional authority of the Board of Trustees of Maitreya Centre for months, eventually culminating in an attempt to remove all the trustees, an attempt that has now been confirmed by the Charity Commission as being invalid according to the constitution of Maitreya Centre and according to charity law.

The attempt to remove me and my fellow trustees was triggered by our intention to stop following the instructions of Chodor and NKT head office with respect to the administration of Maitreya Centre, instructions which we trustees had become convinced were destroying the harmony of the centre, drastically reducing the number of dharma classes the centre was offering, reducing the number of people attending our centre and its branches, and bringing the centre itself to the brink of financial collapse. It certainly appeared to us trustees that the intention of NKT head office was to destroy, or close, our centre, or at the very least to downgrade it to a mere branch of Bodhisattva Centre; hence our desperate attempt to put an administrative distance between us and NKT head office in order to preserve the possibility of saving, and eventually rebuilding, the centre.

Rest assured that Maitreya Centre will always be a part of the NKT-IKBU because it is constitutionally impossible for it to split from the NKT-IKBU anyway. We have never proposed, and will never propose, any constitutional changes, or any constitutional disassociation, to the members of the centre, and we have never informed the members that the centre was split from the NKT. It is Chodor and NKT head office that is publicly claiming that we have split from the NKT and using that as the basis for trying, illegally, to remove the trustees. As usual, this kind of gross misunderstanding could have been easily resolved through discussion, and mediation if necessary, and ironically I and my fellow trustees would have amicably handed over to new trustees of the NKT's choosing months ago if there had been no threats of litigation launched against us. These threats, baseless in law, have delayed the inevitable handover, disastrously divided the community of the centre, undermined the public reputation of the NKT in the local area and beyond, reduced still further the numbers of people attending the centre, and further undermined the financial viability of the centre. Now, when NKT head office eventually 'wins', it will be a pyrrhic victory, with no centre left worthy of the name; but then maybe that was the intention all along.

The lack of any apparent willingness to resolve issues through discussion or negotiation, and the wish to challenge everything through the courts, displays a lack of compassion and rationality that has undermined the faith of myself and many of my colleagues in the organisational ability of the NKT to function effectively in protecting and promoting the spread of Kadam Dharma. I still have faith in you, but not currently in the NKT personnel charged with running the organisation that supposedly serves you. But if, in your judgement, it is I who have made all the critical mistakes over the last few months, then I am happy to accept your judgement and withdraw from all further contact with the NKT and its Dharma Centres and, in the true spirit of lojong, accept defeat and offer the victory to others, and rest content with practising your teachings in quiet solitude. It may actually then be easier to practise your teachings, free from the need to display or support (perhaps to an obsessional degree) an institutionally defined version of external 'purity', and free to concentrate instead upon achieving an internal purity, a purity of the mind, using the methods you have taught so well. The tragedy is that many of the people who used to attend the centre may well drift away from the NKT, if they have not done so already, and seek a safer and more compassionate sangha refuge elsewhere. It is all so unnecessary, and it could all have been so different. I pray that all those whose have received harm from the traumatic events at Maitreya Buddhist Centre may eventually receive great benefit and happiness. I also pray for your good health and long life, and for the flourishing of all your dharma activities. I thank you from the depths of my heart for all the blessings you have bestowed upon me over the years, and rest assured that you will always be in my heart.

With deepest love and respect,
Yours truly,
Andrew Durling.