The NKT and Dorje Shugden

Hello,

First of all apologies for the length of this post, so here goes.

I started practising Buddhism 20 years ago with my local Buddhist centre which was run by The New Kadampa Tradition (NKT), the nearest Buddhist centre for miles. I met some lovely people at the centre but I had great difficulty understanding what was being taught because, for the most part, the teachers could not really explain what they meant. A small example, we used to say the mantra of compassion and it was pronounced Om Mani Peme Hum, I asked why this was not pronounced Om Mani Padme Hum, and when I asked what the difference was nobody could tell me, the teachers assumed it was dialect thing. I like to know what things mean and why I am doing it, charitably I would call it an enquiring mind but it could be just as easily called OCD!

After about 4 years I was getting frustrated (happy to admit a fair slice of that was down to me) and I started doing internet searches about the NKT and I found some comments by Bob Thurman which seemed to at least make me think this was not all down to a lack of understanding on my part. The NKT, as you probably know, have a Dharma Protector called Dorje Shugden, I still have a statue of him, who also got a fair amount of bad press some of it attributed to His Holiness The Dali Lama although I could not track down the exact comments. There were even questions asked in the British Parliament about whether Dorje Shugden was a cult, easy to find if you haven’t read it and are interested.

The NKT planted a seed, which I came back to later, although I never went back but I am grateful for this nurturing. I have always had a strong connection with Avalokiteshvara almost from the first time I saw a statue of him. To my mind, for whatever that is worth, it points to past-life experiences, my family weren’t religious or spiritual and they never talked about it if they were, they were nominally a mixture of Catholic and Reform Church, so I put it down to a seed planted long, long ago. I have said many of his mantra’s but I have always wondered if I was pronouncing incorrectly although I believe intention is very important.

I would love your thoughts on this? To be honest it still niggles away from time to time especially when people like Bob have commented on the NKT and the questions around Dorje Shugden.

All comments welcome, much love, Steve

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Hey Steve

To be honest I can not help with any explanations of the technical information in the OP. I have not studied Buddhism very in depth until this month when I found this site, rest assured someone here has many answers for those questions.

The only thing I can comment on is the power of INTENTION. I think where your heart and mind are at when you say prayers and montras is one of the most important aspects of any religion. Without having your heart or mind in the right place will greatly affect the quality of what you are putting out into the universe. Kind of like making a Mcdonalds cheeseburger vs a Filet Mignon Cheeseburger, the quality of what’s inside makes all the difference. Or when you say I LOVE YOU to someone and don’t really mean it, or only kind of mean it, most people can pick up on the authenticity of the words, and when it comes to (God/the Universe/Mother Nature, etc), nothing gets past THEM, They know the content of your soul and mind through and through.

The fact that you are self aware to this is very big, most people are not. I really think you could chant complete gibberish, or speak in made up tongues, but as long as you are feeling a deep love, or gratitude, or any authentic deep emotion, that will carry over into the higher Power(s) you are worshiping. Think of new born crying, you know something is wrong without any language used, the sound just amplifies the underlying content (inner vibration). I think the same can be said about God or Higher Power, they know what their ‘children’ are saying deep inside.

Hope this helps, appreciate you sharing, I am looking forward to hearing others answer your questions because it will be a big education for me too. :slight_smile:

Om Mani Peme Hum to you, and have a great weekend.

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Steve, (grain of salt) Wikipedia has entries addressing this topic, seemingly from different sides here and here. What I take from it is the exclusivity of only one right way as being the deal breaker. I know that in the Tibetan Buddhist community it is a very strong split, similar to the Protestant revolutionary times in Europe leading to the Thirty Years War and similar conflicts, though NKT is a very small sect in the Tibetan Buddhist Universe. From my Tibetan sources, Om Mani Padme Hum is how it reads, but either pronunciation is fine.

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@Steve_H Since you wrote that all comments are welcome: frankly, I’d be very, very careful with the NKT sect.

When the Dalai Lama visited my city some years ago and gave a public talk to a huge crowd, I became witness of how NKT sect members came with several buses and actively interrupted and tried to disturb his talk on several occasions.
About two dozens of the sect members (absolute majority of them non-tibetans) played huge drums and chanted “Hey Dalai Lama, Stop Lying!” for hours. Very aggressive and tense atmosphere.
I am not a follower of the Gelug school or the Dalai Lama, and I was curious, so I tried to talk to one of the demonstrating sect members… and it was like talking to a radical, brain-washed person.
The person did not want to engage in a conversation but kept repeating how the Dalai Lama was not the “real Dalai Lama” and is actually a liar, and had forbidden to worship Dorje Shugden etc… a real conversation was not possible and I left after a few minutes.

Later on that day, the Dalai Lama gave another talk in the town hall, which I also attended. Several NKT sect members were constantly disrupting his talk. One male sect member started screaming and yelling before he had to be escorted out by security.
Another one asked the D.L. how he could have allowed tibetan children to be traumatized because he had endorsed foster programs after the Chinese invasion of Tibet where children were taken to foster families to Switzerland.
The Dalai Lama then asked his translator to answer that question and the tanslator (a Tibetan) then gave a heart-wrenching account that he had been one of those children and that that foster program had helped save many tibetan children from starvation and hardship since shortly after the Tibetan exodus there was not enough food, money, infrastructure etc. in the refugee camps in India. The question was clearly aimed at trying to discredit him but the personal, sincere first hand account of his translator spoke for itself.

What sticks stronlgy in my memory for that day was a very un-buddhist, aggressive and even fanatical NKT guerilla-type action that day, designed to smear the Dalai Lama and to disrupt the event.
The tibetan schools that I had encountered so far were more concerned with dharma practice than with this sort of aggressive political activism. Very strange.

Regarding Dorje Shugden:
For NKT followers, they see Dorje Shugden as an enlightened manifestation of Manjushri, others see him as a lower (i.e. unenlightened) wrathful protector deity (e.g. like the Sakya-school) , and still others see him as a demonic being.

Some accounts report that the Dalai Lama’s teacher at some point in time stopped maintaining Dorje Shugden practice and adviced the Dalai Lama to check on the purity of Dorje Shugden’s energy.
The Dalai Lama himself then discontinued his Dorje Shugden practice due to his belief that Dorje Shugden’s energy was impure and not enlightened and asked his followers (basically all of the Gelugpas) to discontinue as well, although traditionally it was a widely maintained practice.
Supposedly, the Dalai Lama was so convinced of the impurity of Dorje Shugden’s energy that he proclaimed that Dorje Shugden practitioners continuing the practice were not allowed to participate in the Kala Chakra ritual.
This caused a controversy within the Gelug-tradition since the Dorje Shugden practice was widely practiced.

Perhaps you have had your own experiences with tantric deity practices and perhaps even connected to Dorje Shugden yourself.
In my opinion tantric deity practices can be dangerous depending on the type of energy with which one connects.
I personally cannot comment about Dorje Shugden’s energy, but, I’d at least be very, very careful if the Dalai Lama is convinced that Dorje Shugden’s energy is impure and advises against continuing this practice, being an authority on many meditation practices and widely respected by all major tibetan schools of buddhism and bön.

Entering and maintaining tantric connections involves trust and a leap of faith until the Deity’s energy is experienced. Since you merge with the deity’s energy, this can be problematic if the energy does not have a high degree of purity and does not radiate compassion and love to all sentient beings of all creeds and faiths… that energy can be very powerful, overwhelming and can influence the practicioner… on and off the meditation cushion. Attachment to certain experiences can grow and with that also dependencies… and what happens with one’s personal autonomy then?

Interestingly, other buddhist traditions such as for example the Nyingmapas have their own account on the story of Dorje Shugden, so do the Sakyas.
I found this interesting paper which seems to describe the controvery in a balanced way and although it is in german, google translate or deepl.com will easily make it available, if of interest:

https://info-buddhismus.de/shugden.html

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Hi,

Thank you for your kind words and encouragement, and the time you took to reply. I am grateful

Thanks and love

Steve

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Thank you Barry, I have always suspected that this was the case so thank for your take on this for for the time you took to reply.

Thanks and love

Steve

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Hi @KhyungMar,

Thanks you for sharing this, I have seen very similar accounts. There was one incident where the DL was visiting the UK and the NKT were chanting ‘Your smiles charm but your words harm’, I cannot remember the location, possibly London. I fully agree with you, this is a very un-Buddhist thing to do, they seem akin to the Catholic Church in my experience, the ritual seemed more important than the actual practice.

The NKT take on Dorje Shugden is that he is a Dharma protector and protects the Dharma in your mind.

As you say I have been very careful with the NKT since all of these reports broke and have had very little or no contact with them of their practices for 15 or so years. In fact I tried Zen for a while but it didn’t fit, for me at least, but ultimately came back to a more Tibetan form. I haven’t done any form of energy work with Dorje Shugden but go through a Vajrayogini empowerment but being the NKT there was little discussion on how to practice tantric deity yoga.

As I said in my post, the DL and Bob Thurman’s comments really concerned me hence the move. I did challenge my local teacher on this, not aggressively I might add, and the only amber I got was "I would ask you to judge us based on your experiences of the local centre’ and whilst the teacher is a lovely person it really felt like a rehearsed answer.

I will donate my Dorje Shugden statue to the local NKT centre, I think it’s for the best.

I have spent the last 15+ years reading books and following teachings on the internet, I could really do with finding a sangha somewhere local but for now it’s not an option due the the NKT being in almost every large town and city. I follow groups like this as it is the best I can do for now. @Barry gave me the details for Charlie Watson but unfortunately he is 200 miles from me so the odd course in person might be in order.

I cannot thank you enough for your time, patience and willingness to share your experiences. I will take on board your comments re Dorje Shugden.

Thanks and love

Steve

PS I’ll look at the link you posted, thanks again

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That’s how it was for me, too. Years ago, I’ve started meditation with a local Shambala group for a short time, but kept looking until I found the right school for me. Nowadays, I am still losely associated with the broader sangha but pick the retreats I am attending and usually meditate by myself. I don’t believe in sectarianism and am attending teachings of other traditions as well.
I believe that authentic dharma comes in many forms and is present in many schools, but the style and format has to fit somehow to the practicioner as well. As much as I respect Zen, for example, the rigorous traditional cultural aspect of it did not quite fit me either.

If I understand you correctly you were searching for tibetan buddhist schools/meditation groups?
Nowadays, meditation groups for any of the four main schools (Nyingma, Sakya (a bit less), Gelug or Karma Kagyu) and not to forget Yungdrung Bön are found in most bigger cities. Have you searched the internet for the closest one to your location?
Actually, one other possibility could be cyber sanghas, which some schools organize for regular meditation practice. It is of course a bit different to meeting in person but still very valuable.

I think that that is a very respectful idea!

Good fortunes and all the best for your dharma path!

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Charlie Morley has many online courses and meetings and is one sangha option to consider. As @KhyungMar suggests, there are many online sanghas that can be joined. Some of my online Dream Sharing group friends are Tergar members (Mingyur Rinpoche) and meet online regularly—but only once, if at all, in person with him. I belong to a community that is 200 miles away under the tutelage of Phakchok Rinpoche and have been going to classes online for a couple of years. I have found the meditation instructions and sangha support to be invaluable. Visiting a teacher can be a life-changing experience so you may find one or more within your travel range if you stay alert to who is in that area and when they may be available. There are a couple of Dharma retreat centers about two and a half hours drive from me, and I keep checking them to see what is happening. I was lucky to find that my online Thangka teacher from Amsterdam will be giving a course nearby (200 miles) in October and have already registered to be there.

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For sure, thank you for you contribution, I have learned a lot from that post and the replies

LOVED that story! Honestly I think it was almost worth the protests, just to get that retort.

This is fantastic advice, and I could not agree more.

This website has a huge treasure trove of knowledge, and had you not had issues at the current center, you may never have found it.

If the digital route is something you are not interested in, or you want to supplement it with in person activities, sometimes doing a simple meditation class at a yoga studio can help, or finding meditation groups via google search. No you will not get the in depth religious texts or teachings, but you may meet people there who can point you in a direction to a different Buddhist temple, or even underground groups!

Don’t get discouraged. Follow your gut and intuition, and odds are high the Buddha /God/ and or the Universe will guide you. :slightly_smiling_face:

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Hi @KhyungMar,

Yes you have understood perfectly thank you. I have spent quite a while looking for a local group and will continue to do so, who knows what is around the corner. A cyber sangha sounds an interesting idea, I will definitely look that up. The thing I’m missing the most is a` group of people to discuss things with face to face however cyber encounters are many times better than solitary for me at the moment.

Thank you again for your kindness, support and friendship.

Thanks and love, Steve

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Hi @NightHawk999,

Very kind of you to respond again, thank you ever so much. I agree @KhyungMar was very generous with his time and in a way it was a relief to hear somebody has similar experiences to myself although the protests and aggression was not great nor the chanting in London.

I’m in the early days of investigating the links and advice offered and I’m sure I will follow some of Charlie’s stuff as at least we are on the same land mass LOL.

Thank you again and much love

Steve

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Have you checked out Andrews interview with Charlie Morley on here?
I would highly highly recommend it! I wishy the 2 of them had their own tv show.

Charlie Morley I believe has had at least 1 monk train him, possibly many others, but he was given the ok to teach many of the practices by them. Getting in touch with him, and starting a dialogue, I think would really illuminate the possible resources in the area, and or, the ones that are really worth a distance trek. He has a website, doesn’t hurt to fire off an email, or better yet, attend one of his live events.

Happy hunting, and good luck

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Thanks @NightHawk999, I’ll check that out, you are such a generous person

Thanks and much love

Steve

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Lama Yeshe in London.

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