For those considering more than an occasional visit to NKT, an hour of research is recommended. Before donating more than a few hundred dollars/pounds, this research is advised.
At first, the NKT experience, after paying admission, is peaceful. Continued involvement, however, insidiously leads us into the NKT cult. We start paying for our salvation, and then start paying for NKT's geopolitical plan. We become Kelsang Gyatso's unique militant Shugdenites traveling anywhere the Dalai Lama goes to harass. By then, we may be trapped.
The case against deeper involvement is overwhelming.
Foreign Policy Magazine reviewed NKT in a 12-page assessment published March 2015 entitled "Meet the Buddhists Who Hate the Dalai Lama More Than the Chinese Do: Followers of Dorje Shugden say the Dalai Lama is a "Muslim" who "associates" with Nazis."
"...On Feb. 5, roughly 100 people affiliated with the fringe sect of Buddhism that worships the spirit Dorje Shugden chanted slogans and waved signs denouncing the Dalai Lama outside the Hilton in downtown Washington, D.C. Inside the hotel, U.S. President Barack Obama was headlining the annual National Prayer Breakfast, and the Dalai Lama, the spiritual leader of the Tibetan people, was in attendance. One of the movement’s members handed me a flier; among other disparaging accusations, it claimed that the Dalai Lama is “the worst dictator in this modern day.” Another man, a 37-year-old Shugden follower from Washington state who declined to give his name, told me that the Dalai Lama might actually be a Muslim because he has not expressly claimed to be a Buddhist.
Dorje Shugden is an obscure trickster spirit, believed to have originated in the Tibetan capital, Lhasa, in the 17th century. And though the spirit’s followers in the Western world probably number only a few thousand, they’ve been surprisingly successful at generating attention for themselves and their campaign to discredit the Dalai Lama.
It's unclear where the anti-Dalai Lama vitriol comes from, though it appears to have been a political move by Kelsang Gyatso, who saw it as a way to grow his influence.
Worshiping Dorje Shugden outside Tibet is a relatively new phenomenon, one that basically began in the early 1990s, when Kelsang Gyatso started the NKT. Inside Tibet, however, Dorje Shugden has long been a troublesome presence, almost like a Tibetan version of a mischievous trickster god — one whom some Tibetans have felt the need to propitiate. Dorje Shugden can be translated as “the powerful man with a thunderbolt.”
...in March 1996, the current Dalai Lama admitted that although he used to worship Dorje Shugden, he came to the conclusion that Dorje Shugden is a “vow-breaking demon”
Today, a minority of the roughly 6 million Tibetans living inside China worship Dorje Shugden.
Many members of the Tibetan government in exile, as well as some American Tibetologists, believe that Beijing so obviously gains from this rift in the Tibetan community that the Chinese must be helping to fund the Shugden movement.
Besides protesting the Dalai Lama during his trips to the United States and Europe, Shugden followers produce websites filled with anti-Dalai Lama material and write and distribute pamphlets, articles, and books denouncing the Dalai Lama. Consider, for example, The False Dalai Lama: The Worst Dictator in the Modern World, published in October 2013.
The book describes its purpose as helping people to “understand the deceptive nature” of the Dalai Lama, who stands accused of “destroying pure Buddhism in this world.” If that weren’t enough, it depicts the Tibetan spiritual leader as a “Muslim” who is firmly in the grip of a “fascination with war and Nazism.”"
(Foreign Policy Magazine began in 1975 and is owned by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace)
From a 2014 book about NKT and its politicization and 'McDonaldization' of Buddhism (Dolgyal Shugden: A History),
"...in the religiously ignorant vacuum of today’s increasingly secularized Western society it is difﬁcult, if not impossible, for individuals to judge to what extent different groups conform to or deviate from Buddhist principles, since they have no proper idea of what ‘Buddhism’ actually is. This dangerous climate of ignorance renders it possible for the unprincipled to pass off fabricated, idiosyncratic versions of any of the ancient Eastern religious traditions as bona ﬁde in light of the complete ignorance of potential Western converts as to the actual nature of those ancient faiths.
The principal aim of the present work is to eradicate the ignorance which surrounds the NKT and its controversial protector deity, Shugden, by providing an analysis of the short and longer-term history and nature of these contemporary religious phenomena.
Little was known about the early life of the NKT’s founder, Kelsang Gyatso (b. 1931) until June 2008, when an earlier 1996 letter came to light. That letter, signed by ﬁfteen monastic elders from Sera monastery and which expelled him from the institution for “apostasy”, also claimed that he was not actually a geshe.
Gyatso claims to have become a geshe before entry into Sera, at a monastery where the degree was not awarded. He then claims to have been awarded the degree many years after completing his training at Sera, though he did not take any examinations. He then claims to have been awarded the degree immediately upon having completed the course of study at Sera, where the degree has always been only awarded after thorough examinations, examinations which Gyatso freely admits to never having taken. This morass of contradictory statements, each intended to clarify the status of his degree, is certainly a confusing mess of contradictions which only serves to obfuscate the issue.
(Gyatso) “…in October 1998 we decided to completely stop being involved in this Shugden issue because we realized that in reality this is a Tibetan political problem and not the problem of Buddhism in general or the NKT. We made our decision public at this time -everyone knows the NKT and myself completely stopped being involved in this Shugden issue at all levels. I can guarantee that the NKT and myself have never performed inappropriate actions and will never do so in the future, this is our determination." (in 2008, Kelsang Gyatso re-instituted his political protests against the Dalai Lama)
Not everyone within the NKT followed unquestioningly, however. As a result of the demonstrations, one NKT follower, the Administrative Director from Kadampa Meditation Center, Florida resigned, allegedly declaring in her resignation letter: “Since the beginning of our involvement with the NKT we have been repeatedly told that the NKT was not involved in politics. Now that the NKT has opened up with its political position and begun demonstrating, I can no longer be a part of the organization. This complete lack of honesty about the NKT’s involvement in Tibetan politics is the reason for my departure.”
Jones’ characterization of the NKT as a “…forceful and extrovert (organization) … where recruitment of new members is a major activity” is nowhere more apparent than in the organization’s advertising campaigns. When a branch group is set up in a new area, that area is saturated with publicity, particularly in outlets such as health food stores, newsagents, charity shops, and libraries. Members of other Buddhist groups have reported ﬁnding their own publicity replaced by NKT promotional materials."
In 1995, sociologist George Ritzer used the term 'McDonaldization‘ to describe a process by which modern society has taken on attributes which normally characterize fast-food outlets and the manner in which they are managed to achieve dominant market share. NKT's artsy appealing veneer certainly qualifies.
Google 'NKT controversy', and you will get 49,800 results. Google 'Kelsang Gyatso controversy', and you will get 11,300 results. Google 'NKT cult', and you will get 44,700 results. Google 'Kelsang Gyatso cult', and you will get 12,100 results. Simply spend an hour considering what so many have described about the real missions of NKT in politics and business.
Note NKT's response. Anyone describing its vile politics and religious distortions is a liar.
Buddhist groups around the world have denounced NKT. Tibetans in particular are offended by NKT. Academics, Buddhist Lamas, the press and NKT victims effectively warn against deep involvement with NKT.
Kelsang Gyatso, NKT's founder, claims that he leads the fight to continue the teachings of Lama Tsongkhapa. However, Tsongkhapa (1357–1419), the most prolific author in Buddhism, never mentioned Shugden. Tsongkhapa extended Atisha's formation of Kadampa Buddhism in Tibet, creating New Kadampa Buddhism. Kelsang Gyatso created an extremist derivative in 1991 headquartered in England, calling it the 'New Kadampa Tradition' (NKT), which centers on the demon known as Shugden and a notably superficial portrait of Buddhism. All writings of Tsongkhapa are banned inside NKT, as are the writings and teachings of all other Buddhist teachers, including the most widely known Buddhist, the Dalai Lama.
NKT stands alone, though it has a big footprint enabled by taxpayer subsidies and fees for salvation.
Almost everyone can be suckered by NKT. Even the Dalai Lama was 20 years ago, when he provided a Forward for one of NKT's founder's early books (this forward has since been removed).
Please think about a 'nun' who left the NKT here, her story published September 15, 2015. NKT will call her just another of the thousands of liars. Sadly, there were hundreds before her, and there will be more tragic accounts in the future.