My research and experience have so far not found anything like NKT.
I've heard Kelsang Dekyong and read many other NKTites affirm that NKT is not Tibetan Buddhism, not Zen Buddhism and not traditional Indian or Asian Buddhism. Neither is NKT affiliated with or endorsed by any of them.
Rather, NKT is an entirely new 'tradition' that began about 1990 and that unlike other forms of Buddhism and religion/spirituality...
- claims to be an outgrowth of Tibetan Kadampa Buddhism geared to Westerners, who NKT considers have insufficient attention spans and interests to explore traditional Buddhism (a false notion; most Western Buddhists, numbering in the hundreds of thousands at least, have nothing to do with NKT, a sect of a few thousand adherents (many have left NKT after disturbing abuse or being banned by NKT))
- promotes that only NKT teaches pure Kadampa Dharma and that Kelsang Gyatso (who retires August 2009) is the only pure Kadampa lineage holder and living Buddha and only the third Buddha ever
- claims that "The truth is that NKT practitioners are actual Gelugpas. Those who exclusively follow Je Tsongkhapa’s teachings are called ‘Gelugpas’. The NKT is a pure Gelugpa tradition because (1) it exclusively teaches Je Tsongkhapa’s doctrine, (2) its lineage Gurus from Je Tsongkhapa onwards are exclusively Gelugpas, and (3) Geshe Kelsang’s spiritual education and root Guru (Trijang Rinpoche) are within the Gelugpa tradition. In 1998 Geshe Kelsang stated in an interview:
"We are pure Gelugpas. The name Gelugpa doesn't matter, but we believe we are following the pure tradition of Je Tsongkhapa."
(although NKT's Shugdenism, protest politics, Internet attacks against Buddhists and proclivity to threaten litigation were not part of Tsongkhapa's teachings)
- portrays militancy, promoting around the world protest rallies and Internet attacks against Buddhists and its ex clergy and members (see footnote)
- bans clergy, apartment holders (even when NKT receives government subsidy) and students/attendees for disagreement with NKT politics and personal assaults or for exploring credible forms of Buddhism
- considers its 10 vows for its ordained clergy equivalent to the over 230 vows affirmed by traditional Buddhist monks and nuns
- claims to be specialist in Indo-Tibetan tantra and mass tantra empowerments at festivals
- focuses itself on worshiping and protecting Shugden, what most find to be a demonous spirit invented as a Buddha and deployed by sectarians inside Tibet to harm their enemies and by NKT to export sectarianism around the world against the Dalai Lama and Buddhism
- ridicules its academic and expert Buddhist critics
- has hired attorneys to present its reputation: "one of the top five anti-defamation law firms in the world recently investigated both the NKT-IKBU and all the libel on the Internet against it, it came to the conclusion: "The New Kadampa Tradition is a respectable international organization whose reputation has been severely defamed." (thereby, accusing its critics of illegal activity, a tactic reminiscent of NKT's strategy to takeover Manjushri Institute from a Kadampa Buddhist foundation founded in 1975 by Tibetan Buddhist Lama Thubten Yeshe (this foundation currently has Monasteries and nunneries in 6 countries,
Liberation Prison Project,
Health and Nutrition Clinics,
Meditation Centers in 34 Countries,
Hospices, Education schools and other charities)
- focuses its charities on developing its real estate holdings - profitable mansions, apartments, hotels, spas and restaurants around the world
A Few NKT Charities
- does not house or advise clergy and students to read Buddhist writings inside NKT written by anyone other than Kelsang Gyatso, who NKT claims has expertly selected and summarized traditional Buddhist literature and scriptures geared to the Western psyche
- defies the assessments of its founder, Kelsang Gyatso, by the monastery Kelsang Gyatso attended attempting to earn the Geshe degree (unsuccessfully), Tibetan Buddhists and the Tibetan people who find NKT a disgrace to Buddhism. For examples, click here. At NKT's July 2008 protest rally in New York City, NKT counted 3,000 Tibetans angry with NKT's mission against Tibet and Tibetan Buddhism in apparent concert with the government of Communist China.
NKT's Critique of Tibet
NKT's Caricature of the Dalai Lama
Notably, NKT asserts that,
"NKT is not accepted by many other Buddhist groups...the NKT believes that the most effective method to gain spiritual realizations is to practice one tradition purely without mixing...It is true however that some other Buddhist traditions and unions have rejected the NKT...there is substantial evidence of other Tibetan Buddhist traditions who, following the Dalai Lama’s politics and words, have actually set out to defame the NKT and harm its growth."
(NKT commonly blames its problems on the Dalai Lama, who has no credibility, authority or influence in NKT; NKT does not follow the Dalai Lama or any other Buddhist teacher other than NKT's private in-house purported Buddha, Kelsang Gyatso; NKT's fight with the Dalai Lama is little more than a smokescreen to rationalize its anger with Buddhism; the Dalai Lama is irrelevant to NKT's bogus fight for religious freedom)
The Australian Sangha Association wrote, (the ASA is unaffiliated with the Dalai Lama or Tibetan Buddhism other than through shared Buddhist values; the ASA serves member Buddhist monks and nuns in Australia)
"The Dalai Lama's teachings were attended by over 6000 people who came to be inspired by the peaceful and harmonious message of Buddhism. Instead they were met by a large, organized group of protesters dressed in monastic robes shouting slogans. Noisy public demonstrations such as these are not appropriate behaviour for monks or nuns and have brought Buddhism in this country into disrepute.
Therefore, in the spirit of Dharma and in accordance with Buddhist principles the ASA would encourage the NKT and WSS protesters to request forgiveness from the Dalai Lama for their behaviour and in future to conduct themselves with humility and restraint.
According to our information the robed members of this group have not taken monastic vows as defined by the Vinaya which, as I am sure you know, is the collection of teachings by the Buddha that articulate the moral discipline to be followed by the ordained community.
The Sangha is a 2500 year old institution which has always kept the Vinaya rules as its core practice. It is this moral code which is the foundation of Buddhist monasticism and adherence to it is what defines a person as a Buddhist monk or nun. It is the most important thing that we as monastics from different traditions have in common and is what enables us to come together under the auspices of the WBSC and ASA to celebrate our shared commitment to the Three Jewels.
Members of the NKT who wear robes do not follow this tradition. They have taken 5 precepts including a vow of celibacy and make 5 additional promises to behave in a manner consistent with Dharma and spiritual practice. This is indeed an admirable and praiseworthy commitment and we do not wish to imply that such practitioners are anything other than sincere and genuine in their devotion to the path. However it must be emphasised that this is not a monastic ordination according to the teachings of Buddha.
These precepts are said by their teacher Kelsang Gyatso to derive from the Perfection of Wisdom Sutra and he clearly states they are different from those found in the Vinaya. According to him a monk or a nun becomes a Bhikhu or Bhikhuni 'merely by holding these ten vows of ordination and developing a strong realisation of renunciation that is ever present in the mind.'
This definition has nothing in common with the traditionally accepted understanding of ordination and confuses the notion of a Bhikhu or Bhikhuni in the spiritual and conventional sense. From earliest times a 'true Bhikhu' has been one who realised the Dharma. However all Buddhist traditions, while fully understanding this, have always insisted on the necessity for the conventional Sangha to hold Vinaya vows properly received in accordance with the prescribed rituals.
The opinion of the ASA is that for NKT members to represent themselves to the public as authentic Buddhist monks and nuns is wrong and misleading."
According to NKTites, that Kesang Gyatso paraphrases Atisha and Tsongkhapa in a few of his approximately 20 self-published books is sufficient to establish NKT as Kadampa Buddhism (even if NKT's Shugden worship and most of NKT's public activities are found nowhere in the teachings of Atisha and Tsongkhapa).
Recently, a 'doctor' wrote in defense of NKT's Kadampa status,
"In Joyful Path pages 5-16 we find all sorts of endorsements of Atisha and Tsongkhapa as being wonderful holy beings.
In fact, there is even a list of written works starting on page 15. While it is true that some local NKT'ers have become incredibly attached to a sectarian view,
imputing inherently negative qualities on the objects of their own dislike,
I disagree that the larger entity of NKT bans works of Atisha and Tsongkhapa." (Joyful Path refers to Kelsang Gyatso's book Joyful Path of Good Fortune: The Complete Buddhist Path to Enlightenment)
Notwithstanding such assurances, works of Atisha and Tsongkhapa cannot be found inside NKT. Those that existed in the rich Buddhist library of Manjushri Center prior to NKT takeover have been removed along with all other Buddhist sources, replaced with Kelsang Gyatso's books.
Perhaps, however, merely incorporating paraphrased teachings of Atisha and Tsongkhapa can substantiate a claim of Kadampa Buddhism authenticity.
If I write books paraphrasing Kelsang Gyatso, market myself as a Buddha as Kelsang Gyatso does, and grant myself a Geshe degree as Kelsang Gyatso did, could I justifiably call an organization I might create a 'New NKT Tradition' and claim to carry on its 'lineage'? (even though I might not be endorsed by NKT just as no school of Buddhism has ever endorsed NKT)
One Buddhist widely criticized by NKT is Namkhai Norbu.
"Namkhai Norbu is a Dzogchen teacher who was born in Derge, Kham district (Eastern Tibet) on 8 December 1938. When he was two years old, Namkhai Norbu was recognized as the 'mindstream emanation', a tulku, of the great Dzogchen teacher, Adzom Drugpa (1842-1924), at five he was also recognized as a mindstream emanation of an emanation of Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyel (1594–1651). From an early age Namkhai Norbu undertook an accelerated course of study, attending monastic college, taking retreats, and studying with renowned teachers, including some of the most important Tibetan masters of his time. Under the tutelage of these teachers, he completed the training required by Buddhist tradition in both Sutrayana and Tantrayana. At the age of sixteen he met master Rigdzin Changchub Dorje (1826-1961/1978), who became his principal Dzogchen teacher.
In 1960 he came to Italy at the invitation of Professor Giuseppe Tucci, and served as Professor of Tibetan and Mongolian Language and Literature from 1964 to 1992 at the Oriental Institute of the University of Naples. Namkhai Norbu is widely recognized as a leading authority on Tibetan culture, particularly in the fields of history, literature, and Traditional Tibetan medicine and astrological sciences such as the Tibetan calendar. In 1983, he hosted the first International Convention on Tibetan Medicine, held in Venice, Italy.
In 1976 Chögyal Namkhai Norbu began to give Dzogchen instruction in the West, first in Italy, then in numerous other countries. He quickly became a respected spiritual authority among many practitioners, and has created centers for the study of Dzogchen around the world."
Namkhai Norbu founded the International Shang Shung Institute to preserve the cultural traditions of Tibet. He also founded a non-profit organization called A.S.I.A. (Association for International Solidarity in Asia), which operates in Tibet and is dedicated to serving the Tibetan people in the sectors of education, health, training, disaster relief and sustainable economic development. (www.shangshunginstitute.org)
A bad guy according to NKT.
NKTites have recently asserted that this web site is rubbish (including the many dozens of comments supporting Buddism as on the home page and several essays?).
Responding to the Australian Sangha Association, NKT skillfully produced this YouTube response (NKT published many of its protest productions on YouTube),