A reader writes:
I have a question: What is going on with the brouhaha over Dorje Shugden and the row between the Dalai Lama and the New Kadampa Tradition? (if this is too detailed a question for your site, that’s totally fine.)
It’s a big question, one that may be beyond the scope of this site, but here’s the story in a nutshell.
The New Kadampa Tradition was founded by Geshe Kelseng Gyatso in 1991 as a sort of offshoot of the Tibetan school of Buddhism. They grew rapidly, having dozens schools across the globe. The leader of the Tibetans was, and still is, the Dalai Lama. At first, the Dalai Lama approved of the new offshoot sect, but somewhere down the line, things changed. Kelsan Gyatso accused the D.L. of not doing enough to regain control of Tibet, while some Dalai Lama supporters have gone so far as to say the Chinese government is backing the NKT to make the D.L. look ineffectual. The competition between the two men continued, culminating with the Dalai Lama essentially saying “They’re not with me anymore,” and breaking the connections.
There are quite a lot of detractors out there calling the NKT nothing more than a cult. They have a single charismatic leader, and they teach only his words. In the bookstores they operate, they sell only his books, and literally threw out all the books by other teachers and traditions. Questions and discussion are discouraged; openness is frowned upon. There are even “recovery groups” that have sprung up for people who have gotten out of the group. Nonetheless, they are still growing rapidly, and are quite successful financially. They seem to actually be doing some good.
Is it a cult? Is it a valid Tibetan splinter-group? I’m not going to get in the middle of this battle, but that’s the overview. Do your own research and post your thoughts below. Just to start you off, here’s a BBC documentary that will introduce you to the situation: