Purity According to the New Kadampa Tradition

 According to the teachings of the Old Kadampas, then for any Buddhist there are few questions more important than this:          


What is pure Dharma practice? It has been explained by Teachers such as Dromtonpa that if we have renounced attachments to the comforts of this life our Dharma practice will be pure. However, if we have not renounced attachment to the comforts of this life, even if we engage in the advanced practices of Secret Mantra our practice will not be pure. To develop detachment to the pleasures of this life we do not need to abandon our wealth and possessions, our friends and family. Simply being poor and alone does not mean that we have no attachment to the good things of this life; many poor and lonely people are strongly attached to this world and its pleasures.

To renounce attachment to the comforts of this life means to be free from eight worldly attitudes:

  1. Being pleased when receiving resources and respect
  2. Being displeased when not receiving resources and respect
  3. Being pleased when experiencing pleasure
  4. Being displeased when not experiencing pleasure
  5. Being pleased when enjoying a good reputation
  6. Being displeased when not enjoying a good reputation  
  7. Being pleased when receiving praise
  8. Being displeased when not receiving praise

While we remain attached to resources and respect, pleasure, a good reputation, and praise, our mind is unbalanced and we are inclined to become overexcited when we possess them and dejected when we lose them. We remain unstable, vulnerable, and emotionally dependent upon these things. Most of our energy goes into securing them and guarding against their loss. When we practise Dharma our motivation is strongly influenced by our attachment and so our practice, like all our other activities, is in the interests of this life alone and aimed at obtaining its enjoyments.

To overcome attachment to the welfare of this life we meditate:

It makes no difference whether or not I receive respect, a good reputation, or praise. I do not receive any great benefit from these and when I lose them I am not greatly harmed. Words of blame cannot hurt me. Wealth is easily lost, and the pleasures of this life are transient. I do not need to be so interested in these things or overly concerned about them.

If we can develop equanimity with regard to the concerns of this life we shall overcome many of our daily anxieties and frustrations. We shall find that we have more energy for our Dharma practice and that our practice becomes pure. By comparison with non-religious people, anyone who has developed equanimity with regard to worldly concerns has a high degree of spiritual attainment.

This balanced attitude is something that we need to cultivate because we do not have it naturally from the beginning of our spiritual training. If we have been practising Dharma for some time but cannot feel any of its benefits, the reason is that we are not yet practising pure Dharma. Therefore, in the beginning, our immediate aspiration should not be to gain the perfect results of Dharma practice. Rather, it should be to practise purely. If we can accomplish this aim the results will come naturally in their own time. At the beginning of our training, if we are ambitious to experience results, this ambition itself will be an obstacle to our pure practice because it will be mixed with attachment and worldly concerns. However, the ambition to practise purely is the well-balanced attitude of a steady practitioner. (Geshe Kelsang Gyatso,  Joyful Path of Good Fortune: the Complete Buddhist Path to Enlightenment, pp. 146-148, © 1990, 1995)



How is the NKT Financed?

Fees are charged by NKT Centres and their branches for drop-in classes, and for all other courses and retreats; and in residential Centres rent is charged for accommodation. In accordance with NKT Centre constitutions, none of the income or property of any Centre may be paid by way of profit to its Directors, staff, Teachers or Members, or to any other individual person. 

Every year at the NKT-IKBU International Spring and Summer Festivals at Manjushri KMC in the UK, people gather together from around the world to attend teachings and meditation sessions. There are also Festivals and Dharma Celebrations in many other countries around the world. These events are regarded as spiritual holidays, where people can take a break from their normal routine to study and practise in a special relaxed environment. 

Surplus profits from these Festivals and Dharma Celebrations, from the publishing departments (Tharpa Publications), from the Dharma Centres – in particular the Kadampa Meditation Centres and International Retreat Centres – and Hotel Kadampas, are all donated towards the development of the NKT-IKBU International Temples Project, for public service only; and in the future all such funds will continue to be donated for the same purpose. 

How Do NKT Practitioners Live?

Students of NKT Dharma Centres can either live in their Centre if it is residential, or live independently in their own accommodation. People have complete choice about this. NKT students must support themselves financially in the normal way. 

Who Can Join the NKT-IKBU?

If someone has a wish to study on any of the three NKT study programmes then he or she can join; there is no discrimination, and everyone is welcome. 

Where are NKT Dharma Centres Found?

 According to the 2007 edition of the NKT-IKBU 


Directory of Kadampa Buddhist Centres and Branches there are about 1,100 main NKT Centres and branches worldwide. In the UK there are presently 47 Dharma Centres, all of which are registered charities, and about 20 branches of these Centres. All NKT Centres are listed in the NKT-IKBU Directory, which is updated each year. A database of Centres is also maintained on the NKT-IKBU website. 


At the present time the NKT-IKBU has about 700 ordained monks and nuns around the world. The way of granting ordination within the NKT tradition was designed by Geshe Kelsang Gyatso following the ancient Kadampa tradition. It is very simple and very practical. 

In this tradition, Vinaya – Buddha’s teachings on controlling the mind – is Lamrim, the Stages of the Path to Enlightenment, which belongs to the Mahayana tradition. This is therefore an uncommon tradition. According to the common tradition the Vinaya belongs to the Hinayana tradition; this is not easy for modern day practitioners to put into practice because it has so many rules about physical behaviour. For this reason, Geshe Kelsang has presented the NKT way of granting ordination. People of course have choice as to which tradition to follow for their ordination, but someone wishing to be an NKT monk or nun should follow the NKT tradition.

Within the NKT-IKBU, the General Spiritual Director has the authority whether or not to accept requests to grant ordination if people ask him or her to do so. He or she will not grant ordination to anyone unless they sincerely request ordination from their own side, and unless they have received permission from their parents and so forth. Also, he or she will not accept requests for ordination from people who are under eighteen years old, and will usually encourage young people to wait until they are twenty-two years old. 

From the time they become ordained, all monks and nuns need to respect their commitments. If any ordained person in the NKT-IKBU breaks their vows then they must leave their Dharma Centre and study programme for at least one year. After that they may return, but thereafter cannot become an NKT Dharma Teacher. This rule has been adopted only to protect the purity of holy Dharma, to prevent ordination from being broken in the future, and to save people’s faith.    


Respect for Other Traditions

The NKT−IKBU studies and practises its own tradition purely but sincerely respects all other spiritual traditions. This attitude is encouraged by Geshe Kelsang in his teachings and writings, and is included in one of the internal rules of the NKT-IKBU (Rule 7§ from A Moral Discipline Guide – the Internal Rules of the NKT-IKBU 2007). In the past, one NKT Resident Teacher taught his students in a study programme class, ‘You should not read books other than those by Geshe Kelsang’. This Teacher’s motivation was to help his students to pass their programme examinations by preventing distrac- tions or confusion arising from reading other books. But this is not an NKT rule – NKT people of course have choice about which books they read. This Teacher’s advice was not from a sectarian attitude – he was only trying to help the students to pass their examinations. 

The Dharma Protector

The NKT practises the prayer of the Protector Deity Dorje Shugden. This practice is nearly four hundred years old. The first prayer practice of Dorje Shugden, called ‘Lhundrup Döma’, was written by the Fifth Dalai Lama. Later many Lamas of the Sakya and Gelug traditions including Kyabje Trijang Rinpoche, the Spiritual Guide of the present Dalai Lama, wrote other praises and practice prayers for Dorje Shugden. All these prayers reveal that Dorje Shugden is an enlightened Buddha. 

Some people claim that the Fifth Dalai Lama and a Gelugpa Lama called Ngawang Chogden rejected the Shugden practice, but this is false. There is no evidence to prove this claim, and there is not a single valid reason for saying that Dorje Shugden practitioners are a cult.

Venerable Geshe Kelsang Gyatso

‘Geshe’ generally means ‘Virtuous Friend’. Venerable Geshe Kelsang Gyatso studied Geshe training for many years, first in his local monastery called Jampa Ling and then at Tashi Lhunpo Monastic University; and he passed two examinations at that time. One examination was in memorization and the other was the actual examination. Shortly after that people publicly began to address him as ‘Geshe’.

Later he joined Sera Je Monastery near Lhasa, where he engaged in further Geshe training studies. After that, in India he mainly emphasized retreat for meditation purposes. While living in the mountains near Dalhousie in northern India he received a letter from Sera Je Monastery in south India, encouraging him to go there for examination. He did not attend at that time because he had heard that a newly created system of examination had been introduced and he did not accept this new system.

However, in 197 he did attend his Geshe Ceremony in Sera Je Monastery, making extensive offerings to thousands of monks and receiving a special traditional ‘khatag’ indicating that he was recognized as a Geshe. 

Generally, for someone to become an actual Geshe, the Dalai Lama’s recognition is not necessary. Before the Dalai Lamas, many pure and real Geshes appeared, such as Geshe Potowa, Geshe Jayulwa, Geshe Langri Tangpa, Geshe Sharawa and Geshe Chekhawa. These Kadampa Geshes had no connection with the Dalai Lama. Geshe Kelsang has no connection with the Dalai Lama but is still a pure and real Geshe.

What Does the NKT Teach?

Geshe Kelsang has designed three study programmes of Buddhist teachings, and all NKT-IKBU Centres offer one or more of these. These programmes – called the General, Foundation and Teacher Training Programmes – form the very core of the NKT-IKBU, and are what distinguishes the New Kadampa Tradition from other traditions. 

The General Programme (GP) introduces basic Buddhist view, meditation and practice suitable for beginners. It also includes advanced teachings and practices of both Sutra and Tantra for practitioners with greater experience. 

The Foundation Programme (FP) provides a systematic presentation of particular subjects of Mahayana Buddhism to enable practitioners to deepen their knowledge and experience of Buddhism. The Programme comprises the following five subjects based on Buddha’s Sutra teachings and the corresponding commentaries by Geshe Kelsang:

The Stages of the Path to Enlightenment, based on the commentary Joyful Path of Good Fortune; 

Training the Mind,based on the commentaries Universal Compassion and Eight Steps to Happiness; 

The Heart Sutra,based on the commentary Heart of Wisdom; 

Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life, based on the commentary Meaningful to Behold;

Types of Mind,based on the commentary Understanding the Mind. 

The Teacher Training Programme (TTP) provides a more extensive presentation of particular subjects of Mahayana Buddhism to enable practitioners to deepen their knowledge and experience of Buddhism, and to train as qualified New Kadampa Tradition Teachers. The Programme comprises twelve subjects, based on Buddha’s Sutra and Tantra teachings and the corresponding commentaries by Geshe Kelsang.  Participants also need to observe certain commitments with regard to behaviour and way of life, and to com- plete a number of meditation retreats. The first five subjects of the Programme are the same as for the Foundation Programme, and the additional subjects are: 

Guide to the Middle Way,based on the  commentary Ocean of Nectar; 

Vajrayana Mahamudra,based on the  commentary Clear Light of Bliss; 

The Bodhisattva’s Moral Discipline,based on the commentary The Bodhisattva Vow; 

Offering to the Spiritual Guide,based on the commentaries Great Treasury of Merit and Mahamudra Tantra; 

Vajrayogini Tantra,based on the commentary Guide to Dakini Land; 

Grounds and Paths of Secret Mantra,based on the commentary Tantric Grounds and Paths;

The Practice of Heruka Body Mandala, based on the commentary Essence of Vajrayana. 

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