Views on the NKT Internal Rules

I have just been looking at the New Kadampa Tradition Internal Rules. Has anyone else noticed the ‘new’ 4 year term for future Spiritual Directors. I say new, but it looks like this was introduced sometime over the last 12 months:

In the following extract GSD stands for General Spiritual Director (the main Spiritual Director), and DSD stands for the Deputy Spiritual Director,

 

5§8. The term of office of the GSD shall be four years. At the end of his or her term of office, a person serving as the GSD shall not be eligible for immediate re-election. The term of office of the DSD shall be four years.

5§9. At the end of his or her term of office, a retired GSD shall normally return to his or her previous Dharma Centre, to serve as the Resident Teacher there once again…

 

Please post me your reactions to this, as I would be really interested to hear the points of view of others. I think this makes a massive difference, that will have a fundamental effect. For starters there will be less pressure on the individual(s) who later become the Spiritual Director. Also there will be far less emphasis on who is the individual or figurehead of the tradition – since after four years they go back to being a Resident Teacher and cannot be immediately be re-elected. In this case the emphasis can go to what remains unchanged (so to speak) i.e. the teachings we are focused upon and trying to realise these. Individual practitioners will be able to focus principally on the meaning of the teachings and their origins in Je Tsongkhapa and Buddha Shakyamuni. In this way because Geshe Kelsang Gyatso has put in his books the essence of Je Tsongkhapa’s teachings – it will be Je Tsongkhapa (and through him Buddha) that we will be trying to rely upon, mainly by attempting to understand and then integrate the meaning of his teachings. For those practising in the New Kadampa Tradition, Geshe Kelsang’s books will be the principal means for accessing the meanings in Je Tsongkhapa’s mind, with assistance and support from the Sangha including the Spiritual Teachers at that time. 

This is just my opinion, but please let me know what you think, and I am especially interested in the point of view of those who feel critical of the NKT, and those who may have had disappointing or bad experiences with teachers in the past.

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Evil Spirits, the NKT and what Geshe Kelsang Gyatso says,

 During a teaching in 1994 Geshe Kelsang Gyatso gave many references to a particular evil spirit, and its importance in relation to what a practitioner within the NKT should prioritise. So that the points can be understood clearly I will quote various sections of this teaching to provide the context. This was  a teaching that was open to everyone.

Geshe-la said:

“Although relatively speaking we are doing many good things, chanting prayers, studying, discussing or reading books, making offerings, and so forth, our intention or wish to practice Dharma purely is very weak. Sometimes for a few minutes it develops, but normally our main mind is completely filled with the intention to develop the things of this life. Our main intention is to obtain the happiness of this life. We want to experience worldly pleasures. We should meditate and check whether this is true or not.”

“Sometimes it looks as if we have read many Dharma books and listened to so many teachings and we are ready to teach, but on the other hand the intention or wish to establish samsaric development is so strong. This means that our Dharma practice is mixed with worldly concerns. Because of this it is difficult to achieve realisations, and our progress in Dharma practice is difficult.”

“.. even if we meet a qualified Spiritual Teacher and receive a very special and profound instruction we will be unable to use the instruction due to our lacking the pure intention or pure wish to practise Dharma purely. Because of this, although we receive many higher instructions, they are almost too difficult to use. From the practical point of view this is our problem. Maybe there are some exceptions. I am not saying that this applies to everybody, but I am speaking in general.”

later in the teaching Geshe-la goes on to say,

“The main point is that we have a mind that grasps at a permanent I. This mind prevents us from engaging in Dharma practice purely. This mind is urging, pushing and encouraging us to engage in samsaric activity. It is saying, “You need money, you need this and you need that.” Then when our wishes are unfulfilled we get angry. Normally this mind causes us to develop strong attachment to the things of this life. Because this attachment is so strong it blocks the development of the wish to practice Dharma purely. Because we lack this wish the door of Dharma remains closed for us. There is then no possibility to gain Dharma realisations. Therefore, the point is that we need a method to solve this problem, and this method is to contemplate and meditate on death. This is very important.”

He later continues,

“..as explained in Essence of Nectar Lamrim. Our life is like a candle flame moving in the winds of various conditions for death..”

“..Our life is very uncertain. Our life remains with countless conditions for death, which are like winds moving our life. If we check we will find this to be true. But still we think and act as if we will remain forever. Still we think we will remain tomorrow, and everyday we think, “I will not die today.”

“The mind grasping at a permanent I is a real evil spirit. We are held by this evil spirit, and this prevents us from engaging in the practice of holy Dharma. Although we may know clearly and very well everything about the spiritual path, because we are held by the evil spirit of grasping at a permanent I, we are following mundane paths. From a practical point of view our main aim actually is exactly the same as the wish of normal ordinary people who have not learned about the Dharma, who have never heard about the Dharma in the same way. This situation comes from possessing this evil spirit. We must remove this evil spirit from our mind by sincerely practising contemplation and meditation on death until we develop a spontaneous mind that thinks, “I may die today.” From the depths of our heart we must think, “I may die today,” day and night. Until this thought develops we need to contemplate and meditate on death, otherwise this evil spirit that grasps at the permanent I will prevent us from engaging in holy Dharma practice. Then our knowledge is useless, and we may even misuse our knowledge of the Dharma for the development of samsara, reputation, wealth, position. This will definitely happen.”

“We say we follow the New Kadampa Tradition, and that this is our main aim, so we must do this meditation on death. Up to now we have jumped a little forward. Before gaining realisation of death we jumped into Highest Yoga Tantra practice. This is O.K. In order to encourage people I did this. But now we need to go back and rebuild our house and make it more stable. First we went a little bit quickly and superficially so as to see everything. We have now seen what kind of things there are in Highest Yoga Tantra. To show this I first needed to quickly jump a little bit. now it is time to go back to the first meditation* of the stages of the Path and build the real foundation for the house of Highest Yoga Tantra realisations.”  

*In this context the first meditation of the stages of the Path is the meditation on Death and Impermenence, as Geshe-la explains in this same teaching that the meditation on Reliance upon a Spiritual Guide and Meditation on our Precious Human Life are preparations for this meditation.

Evangelical NKT Buddhist?

As I mentioned previously I work and have done for many years now with the elderly, in different locations. I have found in my experience over the years, that very few colleagues in my line of work are religious in any way, and certainly have little experience of Buddhism. My approach in my previous two jobs has been to begin work without announcing that I am a Buddhist, in fact without mentioning anything to anyone about my religion at all. I get on with my job quietly always remaining calm and patient. Then after one to two years at the earliest, when people have got to know me and my habits well and find them reliable, I then mention that I am a Kadampa Buddhist etc.. at this time colleagues then always seem to respond positively and naturally develop the regard that Buddhists are very calm and positive people

 Sometimes an opposite reaction seems to happen when starting a new job and folk know you are a devout Buddhist from the start. In this situation colleagues often seem to regard any calmness or patience as more pretence than something genuine. That you are just being like that because you are supposed to, as a Buddhist.

My Experience

When I first came into Kadampa Buddhism I became very intersested since it addressed the main questions I had. These were….

What is Meditation?

How do I get going with Meditation?

What can I accomplish with it?

What was the nature of reality? 

Up to that point in my life I had studied various religions, philosophies and schools of psychology – without being satisfied.

Since first coming to the teachings of Geshe Kelsang Gyatso I have adored his very logical approach. I have heard Geshe-la teach on a broad range of instructions in the Lamrim (stages of the path) and instructions of Generation stage and Completion stage of Highest Yoga Tantra, however within this what struck home was during one summer festival when he emphasized that there was nothing more important than overcoming distraction. Geshe-la explained how with distraction one could remain within a religion for many years even as a monk or a teacher doing many good things but never changing much. This explained a lot to me. He further said it was good to emphasize one aspect of Dharma – rather than constantly changing our practice and focus from one thing to another. Since that time I have driven myself to mainly emphasize and concentrate on one simple but effective meditation within the teachings whilst using the other aspects of the Dharma to support this. This has given me much confidence and happiness and now years later I recognize it as the source of any peace of mind that I have.