More on Geshe Kelsang Gyatso,
a Case Study of Intolerance:

The inspiration for this page arose from reading the facts and analysis presented regarding their case at the anti-link provided at Kelsang's entry (to

Kelsang and his group New Kadampa Tradition are likely not the worst examples of even legal intolerance (and i certainly would not say they have done anything illegal). But i was impressed enough reading the very lengthy, detailed and balanced presentation of the controversy around them at info-Buddhism to write this and the more general section on Intolerance in my article expounding on "red flags" that get my negative attention and lead to low ratings.

Prior to reading the details of this case, i rated Kelsang low but not as low as now. I was aware of some controversy around him and his group but didn't find the case against him to be very compelling. Aside from "other Tibetans won't go near him," there was not really any big deal as far as i could see, admittedly not very far. And who cares about their Dorje Shugden deity figure? Some say he's evil, some say not. Whatever!

But okay, i plowed through an enormous pile of facts at the iB page. They have gone to extreme lengths there to ensure an abundance of facts from all sides regarding the NKT controversy, and presented even-handedly in a scholarly manner. Even with that, the most damning material seemed to be the existence of a survivors' discussion group hosted by Yahoo! Groups. But i plowed on, to the likely even more tedious page on the NKT God-figure, Dorje Shugden. And i was surprised to find things falling into place.

There, the pattern became apparent, of PR, continual image-massaging and pushing and insisting, not just for the inclusion of their Dorje Shugden but for his supremacy. When it became clear that the Shugden forces would not settle for anything less than supremacy, mainstream Tibetans finally just excluded him because who wants this kind of thing in their midst? But they HAD been willing to be inclusive on a basis of equality and tolerance. Then, once excluded, NKT played the "intolerance card" to the max, accusing the Dalai Lama and mainstream Tibetans of intolerance!

This is the kind of thing that can only be seen by looking at a detailed history. If one listens only to NKT sound bites vs DL sound bites, one will not get a complete picture and some folks will end up siding with NKT. Thus, with the publicity of this row, there has been a net gain in numbers for NKT with these tactics. Having already taken over another org's flagship monastery in Northern England, they were on a roll. Intolerance works!

The growth associated with this kind of approach could theoretically go on forever, since there will never be a shortage of people who prefer not to wade through the long dry history, but other factors will eventually provide limits, not least among them their own PR errors. Since intolerance is basically unintelligent, an obstacle in the path to disappearance into the Unitive State, mistakes should happen again and again, undermining whatever success is achieved with clever but divisive methods. This has happened already with a badly conceived series of demonstrations against the DL and will happen again.

The wildly rococo system of deities in the Tibetan Buddhist pantheon seems to be a bit of a weak point. On the one hand, they provide an ontological comfort for those who (think they) need it, some ritual and anthropomorphic relief from the arid, lonely or painful journey that self-inquiry can sometimes be. But on the other hand, gods are messy, fallible and divisive, all too human, and with that someone can come along to exploit the system.

Navigation: Site Map   Home