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

(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: Recruitment 1.1. Misleading and therefore unethical advertising 1.1.1. Hidden name 1.1.2. Obscuring the sectarianism from newcomers 1.1.3. The suggestion that classes will improve mental health 1.1.4. Selling people the idea that their goal should be to achieve happiness at all times 1.1.5. The suggestion that anxiety and worry have no meaning 1.1.6. The suggestion that you should be able to ‘take control’ of your thoughts and therefore your emotions and your life 1.1.7. The assertion that the NKT teach mindfulness meditation 1.1.8. Failure to acknowledge or warn people about any possible adverse effects of their practices 1.2. The suggestion that you have fortunate karma to have discovered kadam dharma (flattery and love-bombing) 1.3. ‘Be very careful not to give the impression that it is a recruitment drive’ 1.4. The rejection of ‘worldly’ happiness and ordinary life 2. The practices and potential harm 2.1. Mind control, thought reform and emotional control (indoctrination) 2.2. Mystical manipulation, awe and fervor towards Kelsang Gyatso 2.2.1. Magical thinking 2.2.2. Fervor, blind spots and hyper-sensitivity to criticism 2.2.3. Self-sacrifice 2.2.4. Encouraging teachers to be inauthentic 2.3. Applying antidotes to negative ‘minds’ 2.3.1. Is it even possible to suppress or transform negative minds? 2.3.2. Potential psychological and physical damage 2.3.3. The danger of valuing absolute truth over relative truth (spiritual bypassing) 2.3.4. The stress of self-monitoring and control 2.3.5. Losing your mindfulness skills 2.3.6. The denial of anger 2.3.7. The damage done to relationships with outsiders 2.4. Lack of mindfulness of the body, denial of the existence of the body and risk of dissociation 2.5. The tendency to encourage psychological disturbance in the name of wisdom (sadomasochism) 2.6. The martyr complex 2.7. Confusing doctrine and spiritual neglect 2.8. The ‘emptiness’ of trauma 2.9. Lack of understanding of suicidality and suicide 2.10. Emptiness, nihilism and risk of dissociation, derealisation and depersonalisation 2.11. Emptiness, lack of empathy, warmth and friendship 2.12. Emptiness and lack of personal responsibility 2.13. Visualisation and self-generation as a deity 2.14. Fear of rebirth/reincarnation in a hell realm, and resulting obsessive-compulsive behaviours 2.15. Purification rituals 2.16. Trauma bonds 2.17. The metaphor of family and trauma bonds 2.18. Sexuality 3. The use of coercive control to encourage live-in members and volunteers to self-neglect 4. Abuse 4.1. Abuse enabling, minimising and victim blaming 4.2. Financial abuse 4.3. Alleged sexual abuse and violation of internal rules 5. Institutionalisation and lack of capacity 6. Centre-hopping, ‘cult-hopping’ and lack of economic resources 7. Gaslighting and character assassination of former members and whistleblowers 7.1. Character assassinated as mentally unstable 7.2. Character assassinated as obsessed 7.3. Character assassinated as spiritually inadequate 7.4. Character assassinated as a bad Buddhist (and therefore a bad person) 7.5. Character assassinated as narcissistic 7.6. Character assassinated as fake or false 7.7. Gaslighted as having misunderstood Buddhism 7.8. ‘Why didn’t you leave sooner?’ (character assassinated as stupid) 7.9. Character assassinated as a mara/spy 8. Threats to life, health, reputation and livelihood (‘Fair Game’) from senior NKT 9. Psychological suffering after leaving 9.1. Post-traumatic stress 9.2. Grief 9.3. Risk of severe social isolation 9.4. Personality changes and loss of identity 9.5. Religious trauma syndrome/betrayal trauma 9.6. Shame and feelings of spiritual inadequacy 9.7. Whistleblowing trauma 9.8. Disorganised attachment 9.9. Lack of psychological resources 10. Summary 11. References

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:

And the report itself can be found here:

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