Re: Geshe Kelsang Gyatso (New Kadampa Tradition)
Date: February 06, 2012 03:06AM
Thanks everyone for the revealing discussion. I was involved in NKT for a few months but have got out due to various gut feelings and things that weren't right, as well as noticing that something Kelsang Gyatso's was writing about in his book was total nonsense because he had misinterpretated the original text explaining the point (by Shantideva) and had apparently totally failed to get it. No point in studying one man's books when the book's been going round in circles saying the same thing for ages and is now giving wrong information as well!
It's good that certain ideas should be spread - the idea that compassion, caring for others, not dwelling so much on one's own desires and the line of thought in ones head - these fundamental concepts will lead to more happiness and is part of something which probably formed the basis for all religions because it's based on various facts in reality that we don't necessarily realise. Unfortunately in all cases it has been twisted by people who didn't understand it properly, didn't understand what, for instance Jesus, had meant, and NKT is an example of this now happening in Buddhism - a follower misreading, misunderstanding, and yet tacking his own bits onto the teaching, and teaching his misinterpreted version, which will always get somewhere due to the basic parts that help and make a noticable difference to people, but cause pain and suffering when it comes round to the parts that are not coming from truth but from that human being's delusion and ego.
Using the tools from Buddhism, NKT have a perfect tool to gain members. They have Meditation - which all the classes are called (even though in a 1.5 hour class you get a couple of sets of a few minutes of meditation in between long talks about Buddhism (or the NKT version of it). Someone joins, starts doing what's said re compassion, controlling the mind etc, it works, they feel good, they feel no longer lost, they have community, purpose, guidance and a path.
It is reality that feeling compassion for others and behaving with that as an objective, not dwelling in the line of thought in ones head, seeing that our thoughts do not define us, and practicing striving to control states such as anger and irritation, are the way to a happier life. And most people (especially in the West) long for a sense of belonging and being valued in a social group working together on something. It works to put your faith in a "higher power" and surrender and just work on regulating/changing your own behaviour in various defined ways - that's why AA is so successful. That higher power doesn't have to be Kelsang Gyatso. If it is working for a while, it is not due to him or his writings (apart from in the sense that the community is set up due to his project). If the top is flawed it will probably only work up to a certain point.
I've seen that it's believed within the NKT that the leader is an "enlightened being", while the idea that we all have the seed of enlightenment within us, although mentioned, is not properly taken notice of. A gut feeling of something being wrong that someone may have is probably coming from intuition - the seed of enlightenment. I.e. when someone in a meditation class said their family member had died and they were upset, and the teacher started banging on about how it was their fault due to something they'd done, my gut feeling was to feel quite annoyed at that, and protective of this person. But then I decided teacher knows best - after all, if they're teaching all this stuff that is true, compassion, not self-cherishing, then this must also be true. That's how people are sucked in. NKT have and offer some of the truth, but they also offer that which isn't and is more of an abomination of the truth. Karma is obviously more complicated than this. Someone used an example of rape, I think earlier in this thread or maybe somewhere else, and it's clear that this explanation could be given to someone who'd been raped, and really just has the effect of excusing the perpetrator and making the person think it's some sort of reverberation for something they don't (and of course won't) even remember doing. While in a way the concept that someone may have been responsible for their problems is helpful - it gives a sense of control, and maybe as long as we are good from now on it won't happen again, etc, and self-responsibility is the way to be - but in the wrong hands, a vulnerable person is just as vulnerable but is now dependent on NKT and towing the party line. Karma as put forward by NKT is also a great argument for why someone may rightfully be in a position of power, such as a monk who happens to be at the top of a large organisation with loads of followers who look up to them as superhuman - of course, he must have done many great things and been a good person in previous lives - what a lot of practice he's had doing the right thing and why would he need accountability, and if he's enlightened then why would anyone question, the answer if they don't agree or get it is that they're just not enlightened and he is.
It's quite sad that people, through delusion (they aren't doing this on purpose but are living out yet another angle of delusion) have their hands on genuine tools and teachings that will work and therefore further their project, but are being so loose about the potential damage of the power this gives them and looking only to expand and become more powerful - this is of course classic behaviour of the ego, not enlightenment. A large number of the people who get involved appear to me to be vulnerable people, e.g. in unhappy situations, unemployed, mental health problems, sad things happening in the past, etc. This is what is sad when the organisation are not doing things correctly. Obviously someone who is teaching vulnerable people and is called a "teacher" should have more knowledge than can be gained in about 6 months to a year (by using books that basically say the same thing over and over again quite a lot and which you study at a rate of a few pages a week) especially if they're stating that what they're teaching will bring the people "everlasting" "permanent" "happiness".
Another thing that I didn't think much of was the emails suggesting I do more for them - another way of getting more out of a person. You may be involved in your own voluntary work and think it more worth your time spending a day doing that, but they have this idea that if you do work at a Dharma centre (i.e. benefitting that organisation) then you get amounts of "merit" in a kind of multiplying way. You can go round in circles arguing about this trying to point out the truth - that doing good can be done anywhere. I quite understand the point that "the Dharma centre is for the benefit of everyone" and therefore work done there benefits everyone. This can be seen clearly as a truth in reality (if you accept that the spreading of Buddhism in the NKT way is a good thing) in that helping a Dharma centre has potential to help everyone. However, the person or organisation who would argue blindly that work done that benefits their organisation is better than work done elsewhere is arguing from the point of view of ego, not from an enlightened point of view. You're already giving an amount of money for your classes, but this apparently disappears into the ether for all the recognition there is of you having paid this (out of your hard earned money that you could be spending on something else) - now they point out that helping the centre is where you can get the most "merit" and that you should be doing this.
I was also quite surprised to calculate how much a friend living at a Dharma centre was giving for one room if you add up the amount she's paying in rent, and add her hours of work required even at minimum wage to that. I suppose the argument for that was that her hours of work is "generating merit" for her, but 7 hours a week of someone's work must be quite helpful to a centre, so I'm surprised that wasn't at all reflected in the rent which was perfectly normal for a room in the same area.
I think what is happened is that a monk has read and read but never actually understood what he is supposed to be learning, and in fact ego has been running this show, and that's what has caused the problem.
And I wanted to point out a couple of things that one has to sing in every class. This is one of the verses after making requests to various Buddhas and Deities (I have added the bold):
"I make requests to you, Venerable Kelsang Gyatso,
Protector of a vast ocean of living beings,
Unequalled Teacher of the paths to liberation and enlightenment
Who accomplish and explain everything that was revealed
By the Fourth Deliverer of this fortunate Aeon."
(taken from Universal Compassion by Geshe Kelsang Gyatso)
And another (you are expected to sing this from the start in retreats and foundation programme):
"The two attainments both depend on
My sacred vows and my commitments;
Bless me to understand this clearly
And keep them at the cost of my life.
(taken from Universal Compassion by Geshe Kelsang Gyatso)
I was encouraged to sign paperwork called "The commitments for enrolment Foundation Programme" one of which was that I would attend every class for the book I signed up for. Whoops! It's all very rude actually, being nice is great, but there's no real respect for the people who give their time and money? It's all out the window unless it conforms to the fantasy world they're being sold. I'm looking forward to my new (second) Dalai Lama book "For the Benefit of all Beings - A Commentary on the Way of the Bodhisattva. Now that's something worth reading.