Kelsang Gyatso invented a new religion in 1991, calling it the New Kadampa Tradition.
He claims that his new religion is Kadampa Buddhism, one of the schools of Buddhism in Tibet. He claims that his new religion is based on the teachings of Tsongkhapa (1357–1419), one of the greatest Tibetan Lamas.
Kelsang Gyatso is free to invent any religion he wishes, and ordain clergy in any way he wishes.
However, Kelsang Gyatso broke away from Tibetan Buddhism and Tibetan Lamas in 1991, banning all Buddhist teachers and books from NKT, including the most prolific author of Buddhism, Tsongkhapa. And, his teachers and clergy fall far short of traditional Buddhist teachers and clergy. While one can become an NKT teacher, monk or nun within a year of their first exposure to Buddhism, traditional Buddhist teachers and clergy undergo far more extensive preparation.
For example, consider Anne Klein, aka Lama Rigzin Drolma. She began her training in 1971 and trained with an array of Buddhist Lamas. In 1995, after 24 years of training, she was granted authorization to teach. She has published six books about Buddhism as well as several peer-reviewed articles. Experience such as hers is not permitted inside NKT, where she would never be allowed to publish books and articles, let alone teach inside NKT.
This is mainstream, Kadampa and Tsongkhapa Buddhism, which contrasts with Kelsang Gyatso's new religion and ordination schema.
When Kadam Nick Gillespie, NKT teacher and developer for 25+ years was about to publish a reviewed book, NKT threatened to sue him.
Kelsang Gyatso's ordination contradicts Tsongkhapa's tradition even though Kelsang Gyatso claims to follow Tsongkhapa's tradition purely.
More fundamentally, Kelsang Gyatso's new religion contradicts Tsonghkapa's tradition of adhering to all of Buddha's teachings. Kelsang Gyatso claims that exploring Vinyana/Hinayana because his new religion is based on Mahayana. And, Kelsang Gyatso self-centered mind training is an obstacle for bodhichitta, the mind that strives toward awakening and compassion for the benefit of all sentient beings.
Among Tsongkhapa's extensive writings is The Great Treatise on the Stages of The Path to Enlightenment. Tsongkhapa wrote 600 years ago:
"Thus, it is contradictory to propound that you should not train in the scriptural collections of the Hinayana because you are a Mahayana practitioner...Therefore, Mahayana followers must practice all those things taught in the Hinayana scriptural collections...if you cast aside the paths shared with the perfection vehicle, you make a great mistake. If you do not gain such an understanding, then, each time you gain what seems to be an understanding of an isolated teaching, you will abandon other teachings...Do not use your own incapacity as a reason to repudiate what you cannot actually engage in or turn away from...Therefore, you should respect the vows of individual liberation, the root of the teaching...If you think that the vows of individual liberation are for sravakas, and if you cast aside their prescriptive and proscriptive rules and say, "There are other precepts, bodhisattva precepts, to train in," they you have not grasped the key point of the bodhisattva training in ethical discipline, for it is often said that the ethical discipline of restraint is the basis and source of the next two types of ethical discipline."
Such teachings are banned inside NKT. Tsongkhapa's books are banned inside NKT.
In none of Tsonkhapa's writings is Kelsang Gyatso's master buddha, Shugden, mentioned. Neither does any writing of Atisha. Atisha founded Kadampa Buddhism. Tsongkhapa further developed it; it is known as New Kadamap Buddhism. Kadampa Buddhism does not worship Shugden.
November 2, 2015, Geshe Tashi Tsering published this video. Of course, NKT will castigate Geshe Tashi Tsering because he does not abandon Buddha's teachings, Kadampa Buddhism, Tsongkhapa's work or the Dalai Lama.
Furthermore, no Buddhist group endorses Kelsang Gyatso's clergy ordination. For example:
"The opinion of the ASA (Australia Sangha Association) is that for NKT members to represent themselves to the public as authentic Buddhist monks and nuns is wrong and misleading."
"The DBO (German Buddhist Monastic Association) emphasizes that the protesters belonging to the New Kadampa Tradition (NKT) are no Buddhist monks and nuns according to the monastic rules of the Buddha and that their behaviour in public represents neither the Buddha nor his teachings (Dharma) nor the Buddhist community (Sangha)."
Thusly, Kelsang Gyatso's new religion is not Kadampa Buddhism, nor a traditional Buddhism. His monks and nuns are neither Kadampa nor traditional monks and nuns.
Geshe Tashi Tsering also discusses Shugden.
Geshe Tashi Tsering is a Tibetan Lama who holds the Lharampa Geshe degree (the equivalent of a PhD) from Seramay Monastic University in South India, gaining the highest marks possible at every level of the sixteen year course. He is not allowed to teach inside NKT.
Seramay wrote this in 1996 about Kelsang Gyatso:
"His Holiness The Dalai Lama is the undisputed leader of the six million Tibetans and a
world renowned Buddhist leader as well as a respected statesman of great charisma for
which he was awarded the prestigious 1989 Nobel Peace Prize among many others. His
genuine concern for the welfare of the Tibetan people, the weak and the down trodden and
his teachings on compassion to bring about a more humane and harmonious world and his
call for the protection of all forms of life on our planet and their habitat in the form of what
he termed as ‘Universal Responsibility’ has caught the imagination of the world and is held
in great esteem by virtually the whole world irrespective of their religious affiliations or
However, it is a measure of profound sorrow that a so called “Geshe”
Kelsang Gyatso and his English supporters have embarked upon a ruthless smear campaign
to tarnish the International stature of His Holiness The Dalai Lama in the name of alleged
“religious persecution”. It is nothing short of blasphemy in the eyes of the overwhelming
majority of the six million Tibetans.
It is nothing but a crude form of debasing the Dalai Lama for his own selfish ends...We have nothing but pity for your ignorance...Why not mind his own business and do what he likes in his own bigoted kingdom?
Actions speak louder than words and we are under no illusion with
whom your sympathies are despite your statements to the contrary. The Tibetans all over the world were deeply distressed by your attempt to portray the Dalai Lama as a “ruthless
dictator” an “oppressor of his own people” and smash his International stature so that the
Tibetan struggle will be like a rudderless ship tossing helplessly in the sea of international
intrigues and treacery. From where did you borrow your vocabulary to malign the Dalai Lama? Are
they not straight from the Chinese propaganda dictionary?
These days, [in Kelsang Gyatso] the demonic cloud of overwhelming arrogance displays itself with a mass of deluded pride, like a bat who thinks he is above the sky…. This demon with broken commitments…. burns with the flame of unbearable spite towards the unsurpassed omniscient 14th Dalai Lama, the only staff of life of religious people in Tibet, whose activities and kindness are equal to the sky.
...Kelsang Gyatso who is today a pariah in the
We advise him to accept the fact that he is an ordinary being and stand no chance
whatsoever to challenge the Dalai Lama. He is not even a Geshe. The so called “third
Buddha” is a figment of imagination conjured up by his fawning desciples as
a propaganda tool to attract more people to his centre and that it should not go to his head.
Kelsang himself has transgressed the eight shortcomings of relying wrongly upon his
own spiritual master H.H. The Dalai Lama. According to the circular released by the Sera
Jhe Tsangpa Khangtsen, to whom Kelsang belonged, he had received both sutra and tantric teachings from H.H. The Dalai Lama when he was in Tibet. He had received the fifth Dalai
Lama’s Lamrim Jampel Shalung at the Norbu Linka summer palace and the Kalachakra
Initiation in 1956 from H.H.The Dalai Lama which incidently was the first Kalachakra initiation by the fourteenth Dalai Lama. As it were, there is simply no question of his not
being a desciple of H.H. The Dalai Lama but he has ignored this aspect and launched a
blistering attack on the Dalai Lama in the name of “religious persecution” along with his
gullible followers. The outcome of all this attempt to denigrate the person of the of Dalai
Lama by Kelsang clearly transgressed his spiritual relationship with the Dalai Lama and
though he has mentioned in his letter that “all of us are destined to go to hell”, we are in no doubt that he will infact be the
one who will land in hell.
We have therefore stripped him of his membership from our
Sera Jhe Dratsang since the holy scriptures have clearly prescribed to evict such apostates
who will foul the Sanga community’s spiritual purity and serenity and will have a negative
influence for the whole community. Owing to the above reasons contained in the holy Tantric treatises, the Sera Jhe Dratsang’s
Abbot and ex-abbots, Reincarnations of holy Lamas, Geshes, and the House Masters of the
fifteen different Houses unanimously decided to strip Kelsang Gyatso of his membership in
the Sera Jhe Dratsang and his own House had earlier done the same.
He states that for the last eighteen years the Dalai Lama has done nothing!!! His hatred towards the Dalai Lama obscures him from seeing any merit of the Dalai Lama...It is not the fault of the holy Buddha, nor Lama
Tsongkhapa nor H.H.The Dalai Lama but the beholder like Kelsang Gyatso whose demonic instinct get the better of them...He is an object of pity and nothing else.
We sincerely hope that the cult leader and his fanatical supporters
go through this and think twice before their vitriolic outpourings on the holy person of the
Dalai Lama. We believe you would trust the Chinese version more than ours and because
of this we took the liberty to quote from the Chinese communist periodical. It would be
even better if you would care to go through the whole article and you will be surprised that
even the Chinese communists have far greater respect for the Dalai Lama than cult leader
Kelsang Gyatso and his cultists in Cumbria, England!!!What’s more, if any one disagrees with his “pure” cult, he gets the boot...But with Kalsang anything goes, after all he is the “third
buddha” in the British Isles.
His venomous invectives against the Dalai Lama is unbecoming of a Buddhist...
The sacrilege he was
committing by banning the photos of the Dalai Lama and even the utterance of his name in
the premises of his cult kingdom. It is an unheard piece of news which every Tibetan will
condemn with the severest indiction. The motivation behind this act was, he was now
planning to wean away innocent, unsuspecting, young minds towards his cultist school
called the “New Kadampa Tradition” which imposes a ban on Tibet’s Spiritual and
Temporal leader the Dalai Lama and thus undermine his authority even in the exile
community. His single minded motivation now is to undermine the authority of the Dalai
Lama and maroon the Tibetan people. This is unacceptable to the six million Tibetans and
we will challenge him for this.
In his apparent
ecstasy, he even disowns being a Tibetan and works against the very people where he was
His Holiness Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama, is the embodiment of
the compassion of all Buddhas, the golden flower in the land of
snows, Tibet, the form of the deity who has appeared in Tibet, the
representative of Buddha Shakyamuni, the spiritual leader of all
Buddhists in the world, and the great advocate of non-violence.
For those who come from the land of snow mountains, to find in His
Holiness our sacred source of refuge for this and future lives is
truly our inborn nature, like our eyes which give us sight and our innermost heart.
(referring to Gyatso)...Possessed by a terrible demon, without shame, embarrassment, or
modesty, he doesn't have even the slightest care or concern for any
of the commitments of the three vows [pratimoksha, bodhicitta, and
tantric] which he undertook.
He continuously broadcasts blatantly shameless mad pronouncements,
attacking with baseless slander His Holiness the Dalai Lama, whose
kindness for us, the people of Tibet, has been greater that the
Buddhas of the three times. These unimaginable statements which
defame the name of His Holiness have created an urgent adverse
situation which no Tibetan can tolerate.
Therefore, all those connected with Sera Je College, lamas and
tulkus, abbots, former executives, senior and junior geshes, together
with the leaders of the individual khangtsen [regional houses], all
together, in agreement, with one voice, hereby proclaim that on this
day, August 22, 1996, Kelsang Gyatso, the one with broken commitments
and wrong view, is cast out with the "ritual nine expulsions," and is
thereby banished from this place, and the being a part of the rule of
This means that we request all of our brothers and sisters, the
Tibetan people inside and outside Tibet, to completely sever any
relationship with him. Concerning the practice of worshiping divine
protectors at this Monastery in particular, the protector who was
directed by the previous great masters to advise, command, and look
after our Monastery is the Dharma protector Dregpa Chamsing [Dregs Pa
lCam Sring). Aside from this protector there has traditionally been
no worship of Dolgyal [Dorje Shugden].
These days, we keep in the honored position on the crown of our heads
the instructions of our Government, the great Ganden Potrang.
Therefore, all sangha who reside here, as evidence of their
commitment not to worship the protector Dolgyal, have freely signed
such a pledge, and offered it before the clear eye of His Holiness.
Beyond that, anyone who is not blind should be able to comprehend
this with their ordinary eye of understanding and mind of attachment
and aversion; as they say, no one needs a lamp to make things clear
in the light of the sun and moon.
For the future, we publicly make the strongest request to everyone
not to associate the good name of Sera Je Monastery with this holder
of broken commitments and wrong view."
Kelsang Gyatso created a new religion in 1991. While expropriating the word Kadampa, his new religion is not Kadampa Buddhism. While Kelsang Gyatso claims pure adherence to Tsongkhapa's teachings, he does not.
Simply because someone says something does not make it true. One must look at all available evidence. Piety while fund raising does not mean integrity. And in this case, banning the writings of Kadampa Buddhism and Tsongkhapa certainly does not support any claim that Kelsang Gyatso and NKT are Kadampas and adherents to Tsongkhapa's holy teachings.
The notorious controversy of Kelsang Gyatso and NKT are strong evidence to consider. The founders of Kadampa Buddhism, Atisha and Tsongkhapa, never directed protest rallies or called the Dalai Lamas a Nazi, Marxist, dictator, murderer, hypocrite, human rights abuser, traitor, evil, Muslim, cruel, pig, liar, false Dalai Lama, spiritual con man, one of biggest scams of the century, corrupt politician and CIA agent - hallmarks of Kelsang Gyatso and NKT.
Like clockwork and reflex, a leading NKT supporter responded to Geshe Tashi Tsering.
"I suppose if these videos had any other motivation other than just jealousy and politics they might have served a purpose, but sadly he doesn’t seem to understand the essence of ordination, it’s just a bunch of rules and rituals for him. His arguments are always taking things out of context and generating very weak responses. It was the same at the SOAS Shugden panel discussion: he just gave weak and irrelevant arguments...He’s working well for the false Dalai Lama, whose only intention is to destroy Buddhism in this world."
Perhaps, NKT and the rest of use define 'false' and 'truth' differently. Someone who underwent a complete ordination is inferior to someone who does far less.
Unquestionably, Kelsang Gyatso invented a unique minimalist clergy development program having virtually nothing in common with that of Kadampa Buddhism or Tsongkhapa's specifications.
"c1) Fasting (Upavasa) Vows
Fasting vows are to abandon
Eight things – four roots and four branches.
Incontinence, to take the ungiven,
Killing and false speech are four roots.
Great or high beds, drinking liquor,
Dance, song, garlands and so forth,
And afternoon eating are four branches.
c2) Lay-Followers’ (Upasaka & Upasika) Vows
Vows of lay-followers are to abandon
Killing, theft, lies, sexual misconduct, and intoxicating drink.
Six lay-followers: those who practise
One, some, most rules, or completely,
The continent, and those of refuge.
They are lay-followers who, in order,
Abandon one, two, three of the four roots,
Sexuall misconduct, and incontinence;
Or just of refuge, we assert.
c3) Novices’ (Sramanera & Sramanerika) Vows
Novice vows are to abandon
Ten things – four roots and six branches.
Amusements and adornments, as two;
Three; and accepting gold and silver –
This division makes six branches.
Adding three kinds of falling away –
From making request to one’s preceptor –
Leaving aside householder’s marks,
And wearing the marks of one gone forth –
Thirteen things are to be abandoned.
c4) Probationer Nun’s (Siksamana) Vows
The discipline of a probationer nun
Is, after taking novice vows,
Vow of avoidance – six root rules
And six secondary rules.
Not to go on the road alone,
Not to swim across a river,
Not to touch a male person,
Not to sit with a male alone,
Not to act as go-between,
And not to conceal non-virtue
Are the six root rules of avoidance.
Not to pick up golden treasure,
Not to shave one’s pubic hair,
Not to eat food not received,
Not to eat what has been hoarded,
Not to excrete on green herbage,
Not to dig the soil – these six
Abandonments are the secondary rules.
c5) Full Nun’s (Bhikshuni) Vows
Eight defeats, twenty suspensions,
Thirty-three lapses with forfeiture,
A hundred and eighty simple lapses,
Eleven offences to be confessed
And the hundred and twelve misdeeds
Make three hundred and sixty-four
Things the bhikshuni abandons.
c6) Full Monk’s (Bhikshu) Vows
Four defeats, thirteen suspensions,
Thirty lapses with forfeiture,
Ninety simple lapses, then
Four offences to be confessed
And the hundred and twelve misdeeds –
Added together, two hundred and
Fifty-three things the bhikshu avoids.
Bases in which it is Produced
These eight types of pratimoksha are produced in the bases of men and women of three continents, except Kuru, but not such as eunuchs, hermaphrodites and neuters.
Causes of Loss
Causes of losing vows are two.
Giving back the training, death, two sexes appearing, changing thrice, and cutting one’s roots of virtue are common.
Learning one was not yet twenty, agreeing to serve, and the day’s elapsing are special to, respectively, bhikshus, probationer nuns, and fasters. Some assert the vows are lost if one commits a root offence or if the holy Dharma vanishes. Vaibhashikas of Kashmir assert one with vows with a root offence is like a rich man with a debt.
From keeping these vows, one will gain the temporal fruit, divine or human birth, and the ultimate fruit, the three awakenings. Since this is taught, the energetic always keep the pratimoksha, devotedly striving.
By this virtue, may embodied beings throughout their rebirths live in pure conduct."
Furthermore, Tsongkhapa emphasized that monasticism should not be only about ritual but should involve the rigorous study of Buddhist Philosophy.
Like everything else, Kelsang Gyatso expropriates a few tenants, insisting his fraction is better than the whole, claims purity for his fractionation and denigrates those who reach for full meaning.