I have been involved with Buddhism since 1970, though seemingly longer ago than that. When I read several books in 1974 about Buddhism, it all seemed like common sense and hardly needing a book to learn about it.
Over the years since, I visited from time to time a temple here and there, probably my favorite was one in New York City in 1980. A meal ceremony as I remember, no particular teachings of any sort, which I thought was ideal. We all followed our instincts to pitch in, no directions, no assignments. Silently, automatically. No hierarchy. We endeavored for each other, not ourselves. I wanted only to give, barely recognizing I was there. A wonderful experience, a wonderful teaching, a wonderful example.
Though no one said so, that evening was about touching the moment, each moment, which intensified my sense of others and life. A more profound take away than listening to teachings could ever do. Deepening my sense of spiritual 'realizations'. Beyond relaxing meditation, care must be used to avoid deepening mundane thinking, assumptions and ideologies. Find truth, don't create it.
Buddhism is about doing, not about me. Kindness and compassion are not about me, they are about others. The goal is not about merely thinking about them. It is about doing them. The purpose of my life is to serve others, not me.
A few years ago, because of proximity, I visited an NKT center. Everything was different here. It was all about teaching, all about happiness, all about me. Meditations were focused towards me and what I was to pretend.
We often sat in circles talking about ourselves. It all seemed like psychotherapy. Actually, it was.....teaching after teaching about the troubles of this world and about bad relationships and how NKT could explain and solve them by cultivating our individual happiness. Sitting in circles became a metaphor for going in circles. This is what ego does, and dramatized by NKT's protest rallies against the Dalai Lama and Internet campaigns against its survivors and those who NKT perceived were its competitors.
I noticed that all discussions with anyone else were always self focused. No one there seemed to recognize the existence of anyone else, but rather that others were merely there in their way for their view of the teacher and to their self expression. Everyone was a know-it-all, using NKT's teachings to rationalize self importance. Those with more knowledge of NKT's teachings were more arrogant. The teachers were quick to demean, albeit usually in a pious self-serving way.
The teachings and meditations about happiness seemed pleasing at first, but then I became uncomfortable with NKT's futile ideology. I realized that I was taking a detour that went nowhere. I realized that I was being trained to focus on me and how NKT was instrumental for my ego's development. Watching a performance of Kelsang Dekyong clarified my conclusions about NKT arrogance as she attempted to rationalize and solicit support for NKT's mission against Tibetan Buddhism, particularly the Dalai Lama. She made it very clear that NKT is neither Tibetan Buddhism nor affiliated with any other form of Buddhism and NKT allows no outside Buddhist teachings. I could find no meaningful spirituality at NKT's core.
This egocentric focus of NKT is mistaken. It is not Buddhism. It is not doing kindness and compassion. It is the reason that many have been harmed by NKT. Cultivating ego is not a healthy or spiritual thing to do.
NKT's focus on itself is mistaken. Helping itself will help nobody.
NKT's exporting distorted selections of Tibetan Buddhism is also mistaken. Western culture interacts with Tibetan Buddhism differently than Tibetans. NKT's selling of hyper-appealing fast-track nirvana will not work. NKT has invented 'truth', which it publishes on many attack web sites (example), and even worse, politicizes it and sells it.
These mistaken distortions of NKT misdirect NKT's students. We cannot solve social problems sitting around focused on our happiness and developing our egos.
Hard not to notice, though, that NKT has accumulated much wealth in the process.
In view of the problematic results of NKT's teachings, all the more concerning is the new direction that NKT is taking.....opening NKT schools for children. Just as adolescence is being driven to a younger and younger age in society, NKT intends to instill ego worship now in children. This will be NKT's biggest mistake. Learning NKT's view of happiness early in life will lead to a wasted life even faster.
Time will tell whether NKT will be as successful at this new enterprise as it has been in expanding its real estate holdings and exemplify further NKT's success at our expense.
You conclude that NKT's method will not work. Indeed, it will not work for spiritual development. In contrast, it works very well for NKT whose global collection of businesses looks and operates like a franchise network. At NKT, public service means revenues and taxpayer subsidies depicted by NKT like low hanging fruit. NKT is a business busy with marketing, sales, public relations, competitive strategies, public sector funding and regulatory skills, prices, the Internet, facility planning, expansion, threatening litigation and new business trials.