Buddhism: Details about 'New Kadampa Tradition'
The New Kadampa Tradition (NKT) also known as the International Kadampa Buddhist Union (IKBU) is a global Buddhist organization founded by Geshe Kelsang Gyatso in 1991.
Geshe Kelsang Gyatso is a Tibetan Teacher, Monk and Scholar, trained at the Gelugpa Sera Monastery. In 1977 Geshe Kelsang Gyatso was invited by Lama Thubten Yeshe to teach at Lama Yeshe's FPMT-center Manjushri Institute in Ulverston, England. Geshe Kelsang remained there and took over the Manjushri Institute in 1983. Geshe Kelsang later recounted that Kyabje Trijang Rinpoche asked him to go to England, teach Shantideva's Guide to the Bodhisattva's Way of Life, Chandrakirti's Guide to the Middle Way and Lamrim.
The Manjushri Institute is nowadays called Manjushri Kadampa Meditation Centre. It is the main seat of the New Kadampa Tradition.
NKT-IKBU was founded by Geshe Kelsang Gyatso in order to be completely independent from Gelug School and Tibetan Buddhism. The New Kadampa Tradition is a Western Buddhist Tradition and not a part of Tibetan Buddhism or Gelug school. However, Kyabje Trijang Dorjechang and also his teacher, Pabongkha Rinpoche, are recognised lineage Gurus.
Lineage of Teachers
The NKT expresses its lineage of the teachings as follows:
The New Kadampa Tradition follows a selection of teachings of Venerable Atisha and Je Tsongkhapa as presented in the West by Geshe Kelsang Gyatso.
The New Kadampa Tradition was developed on the basis of Geshe Kelsang Gytaso's teachings and later his published books. To date, Geshe Kelsang Gyatso has written and published more than eighteen books on main topics of Sutra and Tantra, six of them being commentaries to root texts such as:
These books are mainly based on the oral teachings given by Gelug Teachers to Kelsang Gytaso. The Dharma-presentation of Geshe Kelsang Gyatso is nowadays named by NKT as Kadampa Buddhism. Only books written by Kelsang Gyatso are studied in his centres. After the takeover of The Manjushri Institute all books from their library were removed which were written by anyone else than Kelsang Gyatso. These books were accumulated when Lama Yeshe was spiritual guardian of the centre. It is claimed that many of the books were destroyed and some were rescued to be given by concerned students to Samye Ling monastery, in Scotland. However according to Kelsang Khyenrab, the NKT Director for England, "The books at Manjushri Centre’s library, as
Dharma texts, were treated with respect; they were given to Centres and libraries which studied the particular traditions explained within them."
Geshe Kelsang Gyatso has designed three spiritual programs for the systematic study and practice: the General Program, the Foundation Program, and the Teacher Training Program. In all three study programs the students study his books on Buddhism.
The presentation of the Dharma focuses less upon Buddhist philosophy and more upon integrating spiritual practices into daily life. This assortment was made by Geshe Kelsang Gyatso so that the presentation by NKT is more suited to Westerners and has some difference from the modern Tibetan Gelugpa tradition from which it derives.
The formal spiritual programmes include Chandrakirti's 'Guide to the Middle Way', 'The Essence of Wisdom Sutra' (the heart sutra) and 'Lorig', which is the nature and functions of the mind.
The main practice of New Kadampa Buddhists is Lamrim (Stages of the Path to Enlightenment), Lojong (Training the Mind) and Vajrayana Mahamudra (the quick path to enlightenment taught by Buddha Vajradhara) and it is these three subjects that are the essence of Geshe Kelsang's study programmes.
The New Kadampa ordination is different to that followed by monks and nuns in the Tibetan tradition and this has caused some controversy. NKT monks and nuns receive 10 vows from Geshe Kelsang Gyatso.
NKT are honest about the fact that an ordained life is very different in the West because, according to the NKT, some of the Vinaya rules are not appropriate in Western society. The way of life of NKT monks and nuns is quite different to monks and nuns of other traditions because they live in mixed Dharma communities with lay people, and not in single sex monasteries and nunneries, and they also work in society to support themselves.
"If we accept that as religions move from culture to culture they will always be imbued with adaptations that suit the culture at hand, then we can see that sometimes there is a need to be flexible and to adopt new ways of behaviour." It is with this conviction that the NKT has adopted a new code of vinaya. The ordination vows are taken with the motivation of renunciation and contain the commitment to practise the three higher training of moral discipline, concentration and wisdom. As the NKT ordination vows are rooted in the strength of one's understanding of wisdom, renunciation and Bodhicitta, their substance is seen as deriving from the Mahayana Perfection of Wisdom Sutras and Lam Rim teachings rather than from the Vinaya.
The New Kadampa Tradition has expanded rapidly. As of 2005 they claim to have over 900 established centres and branch groups meeting worldwide, including Europe, Asia, East Asia, North, Central and South America and in South Africa. Some of these centres are residential communities, but most are branch groups that meet weekly in Quaker meeting houses and community centres. The NKT has built a Temple in the United Kingdom and has built NKT-Temples in Canada, the United States and is currently building Temples in Brazil and Australia.
Among Buddhists, the New Kadampa Tradition is considered
to be controversial. The NKT is criticised for different reasons. Due to these controversies Kelsang Gytaso was expelled from the Sera Monastery, India. Also the German Buddhist Union have expelled one NKT center and refused another NKT center to become a member.
Critics of NKT say
Response made by NKT practitioners
Some of the statements New Kadampa Tradition followers gave to the controversies are: