Kadampa—An acceptable alternative?

Hi Friends, I am asking for your knowledge and/or opinions of the only kind of Buddhism within driving distance. I think this is a branch of Tibetan, but I am not certain. Would this contradict my practice and understanding in the Theravadin tradition.
Thanks in advance!
Kadampa Buddhism - Kadampa Buddhism.
Lojong - Training the Mind - Kadampa Buddhism

Hmmm sorry to say but NKT is not Tibetan. They are an “entirely independent” “new religious movement” (i.e. cult) started in England in the 90s and are probably best avoided.

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Thanks…good to know!


I think that this is a bit harsh, the movement is new, that’s true, but apart from that it promotes a fairly benign, lamrim based buddhism that even Theravadins should not find too objectionable, and to qoute from the Wikipedia article:

The NKT is a fascinating, entirely new chapter in the history of Eastern spirituality in the West. There are no salacious sex scandals here, nor any suggestion of material corruption – there are no fleets of Bhagwan-style Rolls Royces. The spiritual naivety of Westerners has not been exploited for spiritual or material gain, but they have become foot soldiers in a Tibetan feud.

The fact that they broke away form Gelugpa might be upsetting to some traditionalist Tibetans but it’s hard to see how its particularly relevent for the rest of us.

by way of comparison I would attend a New Kadampa group a thousand times before I attended a FWBO one.

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Like Wat Dhammakaya here in Thailand, NKT aggressively manages their own Wikipedia page. The appearance of their marketing on Wikipedia only shows that they’re well-organized, nothing else.


From a Tibetan Buddhist perspective, the teachings are very good.

Unfortunately, the Sangha is toxic and repressive; and some of the things that I have read about NKT-IBU are troubling.


Dojre Shugden aside is there anything else that is “cultish” about New Kadampa to your knowledge? I had thought that again, putting the Dojre Shudgen issue to one side, Geshe Kelsang Gyatso’s buddhism was fairly unremarkable doctrinally, being a populist exposition of Atisa’s lamrim?

Are there things I am missing?


for people who may be unfamiliar with the Dojre Shugden controversy here is a link.

I don’t have personal experience with them, but everything I have heard is exactly this. That the general teachings shared with the public are rather orthodox. But that any involvement beyond just attending meetings should be avoided.

It’s the social/human side that is a problem. Even a doctrinally unremarkable organization can be very quite toxic. And that seems to be the case here.

The other issue is the people in robes presenting themselves as having an ordination that they do not actually hold.

To try to bring things back to the original question, I would say that even in a less problematic Tibetan tradition there will be things that are different and things that are the same. I believe you have been around the Theravada tradition for some time, so you will probably be able to catch things as they come up. And if something sounds off, then I think bringing questions about it to the forum here is a fine thing to do. Basically something along the lines of “Is this concept one found in the EBTs or Theravada tradition?”

And if you think in terms of the people sitting next to you at the events, there may very well be others like you who are attending simply because it is the only game in town. So you may even meet other Theravada Buddhists!

You also shouldn’t be afraid to organize a gathering of people interested in Theravada Buddhism to do some kind of practice together if community/social interaction is what you are after. Even to bring people together to watch a zoom programme together could be a way to get some social support if that is what you are seeking.

But if you are wanting to deepen your knowledge and practice of Theravada Buddhism, then probably any outside groups won’t help fulfill that.


Hmmm sounds like you haven’t been to a NKT centre or read the teachings! They have a very strong anti “hinayana” stance and in my experience really warned people off Theravada which would lead to ruination and hell… To be fair this bias is also found in other Mahayana traditions.

This group is phenomenally good at marketing and publicity and they are literally everywhere, teaching in multiple suburbs in cities through out the week. So it is quite common that people encounter the group as their first contact with Buddhism. Triratana (formerly FWBO) is similar with its marketing savvy approach. It’s quite common for both groups to brand themselves with something like “The Sydney Buddhist Centre” or “Meditation in Sydney” which is a rather bland but authoritative way of getting people in the door without asking too many questions about the murky things behind the scenes… They are a lot like franchises. part of the energy they have to recruit is due to needing to be one financially viable in each of their thousands of locations. I think that there can be cult-like elements in that drive for members and certainly in the desire for standardisation in an international organisation. The latter is something to watch out for in Theravada too, especially when centred on a cult of personality!

I had a brief dalliance with both these groups in my early days. My experience with NKT was that the folks involved were really nice, if a little naive and starry eyed, but good hearted people. The teachings were given in a very structured and easily understandable way. There was a lot of ritual and singing which I found a bit irritating because it felt a bit churchy and indeed I think the participants were mostly slightly lost white folks who were looking for spiritual connection and this was familiar but yet different.

I was a bit disappointed to discover the monastics were not in fact ordained. And I was disturbed that they really discouraged reading any other Buddhist books except for those of their founder. They didn’t like you doing other meditation methods or retreats or listening to other teachers. It started to feel like a very isolated, closed and uncritical world, and increasing amounts of pressure to participate in more classes, to give more money and get more deeply involved in the centre.

I don’t know that the people involved would have thought of it as a cult, but certainly it was structured like one. When I looked deeper into the group I saw all the scandals and horror stories (this was pre internet) and also noticed that people didn’t seem to stick around long. I didn’t either in the end and stopped going along because it was starting to feel a bit clingy. I felt like I was being harassed to attend and because the people involved were starting to look a bit dead behind the eyes…

I believe if you do a bit of research, that there are stories online from folks who have broken away from the group and who talk about it as being cult survivors.

PS Actually I do respect the appelation of New Religious Movement as opposed to cult, because all religions have cult like tendencies even if not all religions match the formal description of a cult. But I just wanted to add again that even Theravada groups have these tendencies. Some people actually seem to like cults! And others will always be put off by these things. But those folks often have a hard time finding a spiritual place to call home, because so many religious environments have cult-ish tendencies and you have to accept a certain level to belong to any group it seems.


discouraged reading any other Buddhist books except for those of their founder. They didn’t like you doing other meditation methods or retreats or listening to other teachers. It started to feel like a very isolated, closed and uncritical world, and increasing amounts of pressure to participate in more classes, to give more money and get more deeply involved in the centre.

This is typical cult signs.

Edit: about op topic
I am affiliated with Gelugpa sect, that is the main sect that NKT break off from. So yes, I am not at all sympathetic to it.

I have no personal experience, there is no branch here at my country I think. I have read all the official publication by His Holiness Dalai Lama 14th about the main contention between he and NKT - the practice and worship of Dorje Shugden.

I suggest one to look at it to know why from our point of view, it is bad news to be involved with NKT.


Just sharing FYI.

I would say that this is representative of what I have seen from the limited contact I have had with this organisation (actually I have seen a few more things not mentioned in the article).


The group is a cult, make no mistake about it. The Dalai Lama spoke against Dorje Shugden and asked people to abandon that practice because its a “protector deity” that is said to punish and harm people who practice elements outside of the Gelug tradition. It’s a deeply divisive and sectarian tendency within the Gelug tradition. This is why the Dalai Lama had distanced himself from it. the NKT is founded on this idea, and was founded by one person who then created a very authoritarian cult like organization around this ideology. They’ve constantly protested and insulted the Dalai Lama for some time now, calling him a liar, a Nazi etc. It’s nasty stuff.

Somehow they have a lot of resources and are everywhere with really modern promotional materials and clean looking websites. They also don’t show the nasty stuff to people up front and if you are a new person entering their org you will not see the culty stuff up front. But it’s a cult the deeper in you get. Many cults work like this btw, there is an outer circle that is pretty normal and the culty stuff happens in the inner layers. The outer layer of the org helps to insulate the inner cult.

Search around on the internet and you will find a wealth of info about their activities. If you Google NKT cult you will find many people’s experiences with emotional abuse and so on.


Thank you for the clarification I needed. Indeed I have found a home here in Theravada, for whatever my choice is worth, and eschew the politics of religion which might distract me. As I have stated mored than once here, I can’t buy a Buddhist in the eastern and southern regions of New Mexico, and am quite content now to roam among the elephants of my higher consciousness.
And this from the article on the controversy cemented my conviction.

“The demonstrations made front-page news in the British press, which collectively rose to the Dalai Lama’s defense and in various reports depicted the New Kadampa Tradition as a fanatic, empire-building, demon-worshiping cult.”
I get a tad distracted by furors over demonology. I’ll stick to the basics for now. Thank you! :face_exhaling:


Dear Rosie,
Please stay away from NKT (who use the term Kadampa Buddhism to describe themselves). There are plenty of things wrong with this group of Buddhism. If you are into Tibetan Buddhism there are plenty of good groups in the West. Even if this is within driving distance its best to not go there.

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Thank you Bhante, from your lips to my ear as clear an exposition as necessary. Love!


I was involved in NKT and Rigpa many years ago, both groups have their roots in Tibetan Buddhism. NKT seemed OK to me, though I grew tired of the religious politics in Tibetan Buddhism (it was worse in Rigpa actually).
NKT Lamrin practice is very different to Theravada meditations, and I doubt it would be compatible.

Read that. Oh Yeah, that’s a cult. Whew! I needed that education. Holy BuddhaCult.! Corruption is everywhere! I’m just sitting watching the wheels go round and round. Metta

I assume you’ve checked the Buddhanet world directory?World Buddhist Directory - Presented by BuddhaNet.Net

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Ummmm, sure!I have…I mean I will now! Thanks!