To get wealthy.
The New Kadampa Tradition have been financing the growth of their property empire through reliance on public funds such as State benefits and profits due to charitable, tax exempt status since the early 90s. Indeed, both Lord Avebury and Chris Smith asked for an inquiry into the manner in which the organization was raising its financial standing by such reliance as far back as 1996. Evidence of similar cynical manipulation of public funding in an investigation into the Friends of the Western Buddhist Order, the FWBO Files, in the late 90s.
Since then, both organizations have grown significantly: the NKT, for example, have grown from having approximately 20 UK centres worldwide in 96 to having 1200 in 40 different countries today. There is definite evidence that these developments have arisen as a direct result of reliance on public funds. Indeed, this has already been commented on in the context of a Commons Select Committee. The NKTs Todmorden Centre, 'Lobsang Dragpa', bought for £200,000, was occupied by residents, 90% of whom were in receipt of State benefits, for instance. This centre, which also received significant grants from public funds, was subsequently sold for £2 million and the proceeds, by the NKT's own admission, were poured into a number of overseas projects, including a French chateau, with moat, on 57 acres of grounds. There is no doubt that the UK taxpayer and charitable donations have contributed significantly to the growth of both the NKT and the FWBO in such a manner.
The residents of Todmorden had supported the Losang Dragpa Centre for twelve years. They attended open days where in excess of £9000 was regularly raised. They came to Stop The Week events, usually over eighty people each time. The local primary school held concerts in aid of the roof fund. The Council usually offered grants. The Mayor and Councillors visited as did the tradespeople of the town so there was a link with the community.
Many religious organizations steer clear of reliance on State funding as matter of moral principle, it is the case that unscrupulous ones such as the NKT and FWBO in the Buddhist context do not and, indeed, that such reliance has become something of an 'unofficial policy' among them.
Surely, such activities are worthy of scrutiny. In particular, at a time when the ordinary man in the street is having to tighten his belt and face financial difficulties in order to ensure that his family is fed, clothed and housed, it seems thoroughly obscene that such cynical manipulation of the benefits system should continue unchecked. Would not an inquiry into the activities on the part of such religious organizations, an inquiry which asks whether or not their reliance on such funds was moral and properly motivated would be to the benefit of the UK taxpayer in the long term? Since both Lord Avebury and the shadow minister saw fit to ask for investigations in 1996, when both groups were significantly smaller than they are now, how much more important that such investigations take place now, when both have benefited significantly via their widespread, institutionalised reliance on public funds.