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A Psychological Report on The New Kadampa Tradition - Dr. Michelle Haslam

June 29, 2019

 

 (Image posted by Nagarjuna Kadampa Meditation Centre, 24.06.19)

 

This is a report written by an ex-NKT member who is also a clinical psychologist.  The report is too long for me to summarize effectively here, but there are many parallels with Shambhala.  It is an interesting read that will equip the reader with more concepts and language to help some of the dynamics that may occur in unhealthy spiritual situations. Not exactly the same things have been happening in every instance, but there is considerable overlap.

 

Here is the table of contents, to give an idea of the different areas covered:

 

Contents

Section 1: The classes and those who attend 

1.1. Misleading and therefore unethical advertising

1.1.1. The suggestion that classes will improve mental health

1.1.2. Selling people the idea that their goal should be to achieve happiness at all times

1.1.3. The suggestion that feelings have no meaning

1.1.4. The suggestion that you should be able to ‘take control’ of your thoughts and therefore your emotions and your life

1.1.5. Failure to acknowledge or warn people about any possible adverse effects of their practice

1.1.6. The suggestion that you have fortunate karma to have discovered the dharma (flattery and love-bombing)

1.2. Spiritual neglect, lack of guidance and mentorship

1.3. A tendency to encourage psychological disturbance in the name of wisdom

1.4. ‘Mind control’

1.5. Encouraging addiction and co-dependency

1.6. ‘We completely understand the mind, but not mental health’

1.7. The practice of ‘applying antidotes/opponents’ for ‘minds’ or emotions

1.7.1. Is it even possible to suppress or transform negative minds?

1.7.2. Potential psychological damage

1.7.3. The danger of valuing absolute truth over relative truth

1.7.4. The stress of self-monitoring and control

1.7.5. Losing your mindfulness skills

1.7.6. The denial of anger

1.7.7. The potential damage to your physical health

1.7.8. The damage done to relationships with outsiders

1.8. More spiritual bypassing

1.9. The NKT do not teach mindfulness and are not qualified to do so

1.10. Lack of mindfulness of the body, denial of the existence of the body and risk of dissociation

1.11. Nihilism and emptiness teachings available for beginners

1.12. Fanaticism and magical thinking

1.13. Fear of rebirth/reincarnation in a hell realm, and resulting obsessive-compulsive behaviours

1.14. Confusing doctrine

1.15. The martyr and messiah complex

1.16. Why does it feel good, especially at first?

1.17. The naivety of mental health services

 

Section 2: Those who live and/or work in New Kadampa Tradition dharma centres

2.1. Serious neglect of residents mental and physical health

2.2. High level of burnout

2.3. Misplaced loyalty and feeling beholden to the NKT (fear and guilt)

2.4. The enabling and minimising of abuse

2.5. Trauma bonds

2.6. Institutionalisation and lack of capacity

2.7. Drawing in non-Buddhists in order to pay the bills

2.8. Financial abuse

2.9. Severe gaslighting of the mental health or mental ‘clarity’ of those who perceive faults in the organisation and ‘disgruntled’ former members

2.10. Eviction, abandonment and neglect of those in mental health crisis

2.11. Lack of aftercare

2.11.1. The possible withdrawal effects of leaving a cult

2.11.2. Narcissistic abuse syndrome

2.11.3. Complex post-traumatic stress disorder

2.11.4. Loss of identity

2.11.5. Difficulty and shame in explaining your experience to outsiders

2.11.6. The risks involved in speaking up about the NKT

2.11.6.1. Gaslighting

2.11.6.2. Threats and defamation

2.12. Summary

 

References

Appendix A: Lifton’s eight criteria of thought reform

Appendix B: Messages of appreciation from ex-members

 

One of the many sections of the report that stuck out to me in its similarities to Shambhala was the experience of whistleblowers and abuse reporters:

 

"Due to the encouragement to view all human beings as faultless, including your abuser, and your own feelings as ‘empty of inherent existence’, it is very difficult for people to stand up for themselves when being abused. Ex-members report that when they attempted to speak up about abuse they were told:

1. ‘We have to let people make mistakes’

2. ‘We all still have delusions’

3. ‘If we expected teachers to hold moral discipline all the time we would have no teachers’

4. ‘Everything is empty’

5. ‘You must have done something similar in a previous life/it’s your karma’

6. ‘Practice compassion’ (for your abuser)"

 

The report is hosted on this site:

https://newkadampatraditionreport.org/

 

And the report itself can be found here:

https://newkadampatraditionreport.files.wordpress.com/2019/06/a-psychological-report-on-the-new-kadampa-tradition-final-version.pdf

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