Kelsang Gyatso

Kelsang Gyatso

Kelsang Gyatso is a Buddhist monk, Gelug teacher (scholar) and author of 21 Buddhist books based on the works of Buddha Shakyamuni and Je Tsongkhapa. He was born in Tibet in 1931 and ordained at the age of eight. In 1976 he was invited by Trijang Rinpoche and Lama Thubten Yeshe, to teach at Manjushri Institute in Ulverston, England. He founded the New Kadampa Tradition in 1991.

Early years in Tibet

Kelsang Gyatso was born in Tibet in 1931, and at age 8 he was ordained at the Ngamring Jampling monastery. Later he studied at Sera Monastery, one of the great Gelug monastic universities of Tibet, where he received his Geshe degree.

He was a member of the Tsangpa Khangtsen, one of the fifteen houses at the monastery. As a member of that house, and a part of the general monastic community around Lhasa, he attended many public teachings, along with most of the monks and public from the area.

Life in India

Leaving Tibet

After the exodus of Tibet in 1959, Geshe Kelsang stayed at the initial location of his monastery, in Buxar. Later, after Prime Minister Nehru donated large tracts of land in South India to the community in exile, the monastery moved South. At this time, Geshe Kelsang left the monastery at Buxar for Mussoorie (a hill station in the Indian state of Uttaranchal).

Retreat

According to the New Kadampa Tradition source "Modern Day Kadampas":

:After leaving Tibet in 1959, he spent the next eighteen years mainly emphasizing retreat in various locations in the Himalayan region and northern India...In January 1987, Geshe Kelsang entered a three-year retreat at Tharpaland in southern Scotland. Although Geshe-la gave no formal teachings during this time, in-between his meditation sessions he continued to work on a number of books, and it was during his stay at Tharpaland that he completed "Joyful Path of Good Fortune" and "Universal Compassion", and wrote "The Meditation Handbook", "Introduction to Buddhism" and "Guide to Dakini Land". It was also during this period that he designed the three spiritual programs that form the core of the New Kadampa Tradition.

Journey to the West

In 1976 Geshe Kelsang was invited by Lama Thubten Yeshe and Lama Zopa Rinpoche [Kay 2004 : 56] to teach at Manjushri Institute, an FPMT center in England, founded by Lama Yeshe in 1975. Geshe Kelsang arrived in England in late August 1977.Modern Day Kadampas - published by NKT, [http://www.meditateinireland.com/html_pages/Modern%20Day%20Kadampas.htm] ]

According to the New Kadampa Tradition source "Modern Day Kadampas"::Geshe Kelsang had accepted an invitation by the Christian monk and writer, Thomas Merton, to live and teach in a centre planned in Canada, but after Thomas Merton's tragic death [in 1968] this was no longer possible. Geshe Kelsang was then free to come to England, and Lama Yeshe requested Kyabje Trijang Rinpoche to ask Geshe Kelsang to become Resident Teacher of Manjushri Centre.

According to Kay, Geshe Kelsang "split away from this organisation to develop a parallel network of his own that he later unified and gave a distinct identity as the NKT." [Kay 2004 : 37] Geshe Kelsang split away from the Tibetan Buddhist establishment to escape the theocratic mixing of religion and politics, so that he could found a tradition that was entirely spiritual, deriving from the tradition of his root Guru Trijang Rinpoche, and not under the control of Tibetan politics. He became the spiritual teacher of Manjushri Institute and later founded the New Kadampa Tradition in 1991. The Manjushri Institute was established in Ulverston and is nowadays called Manjushri Kadampa Meditation Centre. It is nowadays the main seat of the New Kadampa Tradition. He has lived there and in other places in the West since 1977, giving teachings and guidance to an ever-growing group of western and eastern disciples. He is the General Spiritual Director of over 1100 Centers and groups throughout the world. According to the "Internal Rules of NKT" he has established a democratic system of succession under the framework of the British legal system. [Internal Rules 2007]

In 1982 Geshe Kelsang became a naturalized British citizen. [NKT sources: [http://www.meditationinnewyork.org/Spiritual_Director.php] ] This meant he was no longer under the jurisdiction of the Tibetan government in exile and could continue his work of bringing Je Tsongkhapa's tradition to the Western world, free from politics.

Books, programs and centers

Geshe Kelsang has written twenty books that aim to provide Western Dharma practitioners with essential Buddhist texts. There are books for beginners such as "Transform Your Life" and "How to Solve Our Human Problems", books about the Mahayana path like "Universal Compassion" (Lojong), "Heart of Wisdom" (Heart Sutra) and "Joyful Path of Good Fortune" (Lamrim), and books on Vajrayana (Tantra) like "Mahamudra Tantra", "Guide to Dakini Land" and "Essence of Vajrayana". Two of his books are commentaries on Indian Mahayana texts: the book "Ocean of Nectar" is a commentary to Chandrakirti's "Guide to the Middle Way", and "Meaningful to Behold" is a commentary to Shantideva's "Guide to the Bodhisattva's Way of Life" or "Bodhicharyavatara". His books were first published by Wisdom Publications. Later in 1985, he founded Tharpa Publications, and since then Tharpa has been the exclusive publisher of his works.

Furthermore, he has established three study programmes in his Dharma Centres, called the General Programme, Foundation Programme and Teacher Training Programme respectively. In these programs people can study Geshe Kelsang's books with authorized NKT teachers.

In 1991 he founded the New Kadampa Tradition, and most NKT centers have been established since that time. According to NKT sources, he has founded "over 1100 meditation centres and groups in over 40 countries". [quote from Manjushri Kadampa Meditation Centre at [http://manjushri.org/meditation_teachers-geshe_kelsang_gyatso.php] ] This includes about 200+ residential centres and 700+ groups at local places, such as rented commercial spaces and local community centres.

According to the NKT, Geshe Kelsang's teachings "are especially suited to the modern world." [Official NKT Website, [http://www.kadampa.org/english/tradition/spiritual_programs.php] ]

According to Waterhouse, the doctrinally conservative nature of his teachings and the traditionally structured and direct style in which they are presented in his texts reflects his background within the rigorous scholastic and academic training system of Sera Je monastic training system. [Waterhouse 1997 : 151]

According to Geshe Kelsang his teachings are not exclusive but follow a lineage. "A lineage is a line of instruction that has been passed down from Teacher to disciple, with each Guru in the line having gained personal experience of the instruction before passing it on to others. It is essential for a lineage to be intact if we are to receive the full blessing of the instruction. It is not enough that the written instruction remains. If there is no one left who has personal experience of an instruction, the lineage of that instruction is broken and the blessings are lost." [Geshe Kelsang Gyatso, Great Treasury of Merit: How to Rely Upon a Spiritual Guide, p. 101, © 1992]

Teachings

According to Geshe Kelsang's book "Guide to the Dakini Land" [Geshe Kelsang Gyatso, "Guide to Dakini Land", Tharpa Publications, page ?] , he has presented the Sutra and Tantra teachings of Buddha Shakyamuni according to the teachings Je Tsongkhapa and the lineage Gurus Trijang Rinpoche and Je Phabongkhapa. According to his publisher Tharpa Publications, his twenty-one books present the entire path to enlightenment [Tharpa [http://tharpa.com] ] and some of them, e.g. "The New Meditation Handbook" and "Introduction to Buddhism" have become bestsellers. [Waterstones Bestseller Lists of 1994 and 1995]

Compassion, generosity and Bodhicitta

Besides an emphasis "to and maintain a special experience of inner peace," to promote "lasting happiness," and "replacing negative mental states with positive ones," the practices of compassion and generosity are also repeatedly emphasised by Geshe Kelsang. [Bluck 2006 : 143] This includes cherishing other beings, taking upon oneself their suffering, and wishing them to be happy. Wishing others to be happy will enable practitioners "to be born as a human or god, to have a beautiful body in the future, and to be loved and respected by many people". [Kelsang 2001: 211, 190] In the same vein, he has written: “The path to enlightenment is really very simple - all we need to do is stop cherishing ourself and learn to cherish others. All other spiritual realizations will naturally follow from this.” [Geshe Kelsang Gyatso, Eight Steps to Happiness, p. 46.]

Other key elements of Geshe Kelsang's teachings are a focus on Bodhicitta and generosity and their benefits, taking refuge in the Three Jewels (Buddha, Dharma and Sangha) and encouraging others to do the same, and fearing lower rebirth and Samsara. Quoting Waterhouse (1997: 173), Bluck says that "the teaching on the hell realms was used to encourage followers 'not to break their commitments for fear of future suffering.' Although familiar in Tibetan Buddhism, this is rarely mentioned in Britain outside the NKT." [Bluck 2006: 144] More generally, these teachings were presented in the context of the law of karma, stating that virtuous actions lead to happiness and non-virtuous actions lead to suffering. As a result of understanding the law of karma, practitioners are encouraged to avoid harming any living being and to constantly benefit others.

Education and Qualifications

According to the official New Kadampa Tradition page "From the age of eight Geshe-la studied extensively in the great monastic universities of Tibet and earned the title Geshe". [New Kadampa Tradition Website [http://www.kadampa.org/english/tradition/geshe_kelsang_gyatso.php] ]

Acknowledgement by his teachers

He is highly thought of within the Tibetan Gelug tradition, as three of his works contained forewords by previous Ganden Tripas and the Dalai Lama. The Dalai Lama contributed a foreword to "Buddhism in the Tibetan Tradition" while Trijang Rinpoche and Ling Rinpoche, who each held the position of Ganden Tripa, also provided forewords for his books "Meaningful to Behold" (which was dedicated to the long life of the Dalai Lama) and "Clear Light of Bliss" (which was dedicated to the late Trijang Rinpoche), respectively. Kyabje Ling Rinpoche refers to Geshe Kelsang as "this most precious Spiritual Guide," while Kyabje Trijang Rinpoche refers to him as "The excellent expounder, the great Spiritual Master Kelsang Gyatso."

Further activities

Geshe Kelsang continues to give teachings in Europe and North America.

"From his earliest days at Manjushri Centre, Geshe-la worked tirelessly to guide and inspire his students in every aspect of their spiritual life, and continues to do so for the benefit of his many disciples throughout the world. Geshe-la has given extensive commentaries on a great range of subjects from both Sutra and Tantra, but in addition to formal teachings Geshe-la has always been available for private consultations, helping students with their personal problems and being concerned with their health and welfare. Geshe-la has always encouraged his students to present Dharma in a way appropriate to their own culture and society without the need to adopt Tibetan culture and customs. Realizing that it would be difficult for many of his students to learn Tibetan, he taught himself English. Understanding the importance of presenting authentic commentaries in English and other languages, he devotes himself to writing and editing, as well as organizing the publication and translation of his books. All the royalties that he receives as author of these books he donates to Manjushri Centre."

Temple project

Geshe Kelsang has been the driving force behind the building of the NKT temples.BBC (bbc.co.uk), [http://www.bbc.co.uk/religion/religions/buddhism/subdivisions/kadampa.shtml The New Kadampa Tradition] ] The first temple was completed in 1998 at Manjushri Centre, Cumbria. The second temple was opened in 2005, in Glen Spey, New York. At present work is underway for a third temple near São Paulo, Brazil.

Further Temples are planned at Tara Centre in Derby, England and in Melbourne, Australia as well as in Germany.

"NKT members hope to build a Buddhist temple in every major town and city in the world. This project is known as the International Temples Project for World Peace."

Controversies

Dorje Shugden

Because the practice of Dorje Shugden was transmitted by Trijang Rinpoche to Geshe Kelsang, he still teaches and follows this practice, seeing it as his commitment not to give it up. At various points in history, this practice was performed in private or in a specially devoted shrine room, however, under Je Phabongkhapa and Trijang Rinpoche, considered by many to be the two most prominent Gelugpa Lamas of the 20th century, the practice was brought into the Gelugpa mainstream. To enable the practice to be engaged in by the growing number of practitioners, NKT centers practice the Heart Jewel Sadhana in the main shrine room. Practiced daily by faithful NKT followers, the "Heart Jewel" Sadhana contains the Tsongkhapa-Guru-Yoga practice (Tib. "Ganden Lha Gyäma") combined with a condensed version of the Dorje Shugden Sadhana. The controversy regarding the Dorje Shugden practice is described in the article on the Dorje Shugden Controversy.

Geshe Kelsang has described Dorje Shugden as an enlightened Dharma protector (Dharmapala), a manifestation of the Wisdom-Buddha Manjushri and stated:

:"From the time of Je Tsongkhapa until the first Panchen Lama, Losang Chökyi Gyaltsän, the principal Dharma Protector of Je Tsongkhapa's lineage was Kalarupa. Later, however, it was felt by many high Lamas that Dorje Shugden had become the principal Dharma Protector of this tradition."Dorje Shugden, explained by Geshe Kelsang, Official NKT Website, [http://www.kadampa.org/english/tradition/dorje_shugden.php] ]

"There is no difference in the compassion, wisdom, or power of the various Dharma Protectors, but because of the karma of sentient beings, one particular Dharma Protector will have a greater opportunity to help Dharma practitioners at any one particular time... These days, however, we do not have such karma, and so Buddha appears to us in the form of our Spiritual Guide and helps us by giving teachings and leading us on spiritual paths. Thus, the form that Buddha's help takes varies according to our changing karma, but its essential nature remains the same... However, the beings of this present time have a stronger karmic link with Dorje Shugden than with the other Dharma Protectors. It was for this reason that Morchen Dorjechang Kunga Lhundrup, a very highly realized Master of the Sakya tradition, told his disciples, "Now is the time to rely upon Dorje Shugden." He said this on many occasions to encourage his disciples to develop faith in the practice of Dorje Shugden. We too should heed his advice and take it to heart. He did not say that this is the time to rely upon other Dharma Protectors, but clearly stated that now is the time to rely upon Dorje Shugden."

Geshe Kelsang described the benefits of relying upon Dorje Shugden as follows::"If we can understand well the nature and functions of Dorje Shugden, we can understand the benefits of relying upon him. Dorje Shugden always helps, guides, and protects pure and faithful practitioners by granting blessings, increasing their wisdom, fulfilling their wishes, and bestowing success on all their virtuous activities... We should understand that the principal function of a Dharma Protector is to protect our Dharma practice, not to help our mundane affairs. Bearing this in mind we should not become discouraged if we do not suddenly become very wealthy, for wealth does not necessarily help spiritual practice and can be a great distraction..."

The present Dalai Lama, "however, has rejected and spoken out against this practice. He has described Shugden as an evil and malevolent force, and argued that other Lamas before him had also placed restrictions on worship of this spirit." [BBC, [http://www.bbc.co.uk/religion/religions/buddhism/subdivisions/kadampa.shtml] ] For more info, please check: " [ [http://youtube.com/watch?v=n5sOm-uQH9Y YouTube - Dalai Lama and Dorje Shugden, Part 1 ] ]

Tibetan Lamas who put emphasis on that practice, besides Geshe Kelsang and others, include: Pabongka Rinpoche, Trijang Rinpoche, Song Rinpoche, Gonsar Rinpoche, and Kyabje Dagom Rinpoche.

The different views on Dorje Shugden led finally to a public dispute in the West, and the organisation of public demonstrations against the Dalai Lama by the Western Shugden Society [ [http://www.westernshugdensociety.org Western Shugden Society | Dalai Lama Controversy - The Truth Revealed ] ] , which includes many individual members of Geshe Kelsang's organization, the NKT, as well as thousands of Tibetan and other Shugden practitioners. Geshe Kelsang stated: "Demonstrating was telling him (the Dalai Lama) that he made a mistake. Demonstrating should have been a teacher for him. Demonstrating was loving him, not disrespecting him, not harming him. But he never changed." [An Interview With Geshe Kelsang Gyatso, he discusses Dorje Shugden as a benevolent protector god. Spring 1998. Tricycle] For a very accurate portrayal about this controversy, please watch: http://youtube.com/watch?v=n5sOm-uQH9Y

From the point of view of Geshe Kelsang and his followers, the Dalai Lama had put a "ban" on the practice [Bunting, The Guardian, 1996, on July 6; Lopez 1998:193] , and so they accused the Dalai Lama of impinging on their religious freedom and of intolerance Lopez 1998:193] . Through organized public protests and a press campaign, Geshe Kelsang and the Western Shugden Society accused the Dalai Lama of being a "ruthless dictator" and an "oppressor of religious freedom" [Bunting, The Guardian, 1996, on July 6] . Geshe Kelsang received the Dorje Shugden practice from his main Lama (root Guru) Kyabje Trijang Rinpoche and instructed his students "to make the worship of the deity a central part of their practice" (For more see Dorje Shugden Controversy.) In response to some articles in the international press, Geshe Kelsang wrote a number of open letters. For example, in a letter to the Washington Post in 2002, he said: "I can guarantee that the NKT and myself have never performed inappropriate actions and will never do so in the future, this is our determination." [Press Statement, Nov. 25, 2002, Open Letter by Geshe Kelsang to Wesley Pruden, Editor in Chief, The Washington Times, [http://www.send2press.com/PRnetwire/pr_02_1125-dalailama.shtml] ]

In 1998 Geshe Kelsang stopped that campaign, stating that "we decided to completely stop being involved in this Shugden issue because we realized that in reality this is a Tibetan political problem and not the problem of Buddhism in general or the NKT". [Open letter from Geshe Kelsang to Wesley Pruden, editor in chief, The Washington Times, Press Statement — November 25, 2002, [http://www.send2press.com/PRnetwire/pr_02_1125-dalailama.shtml] ]

eparation from the Gelug school hierarchy

Unlike the Dalai Lama, the highest Gelug Tulku, and the current Ganden Tripa, the head of the Gelug Tradition, and consistent with the lineage teachings he received from the previous Ganden Tripa, Kyabje Trijang Rinpoche, Geshe Kelsang felt that the practice of Dorje Shugden should continue to be practiced by those Kadampas (a type of Gelugpa) who wish to do so. As it is an independent Western Buddhist organization, neither the Dalai Lama nor the Tibetan Ganden Tripa has any authority in terms of how the NKT is organised and what teachings they emphasize. [Kay page 59] This is mainly because the NKT is a Western Buddhist organisation with no political affliations and is not part of Tibetan Buddhism, rather it considers itself Kadampa Buddhism.

The separation between Geshe Kelsang and the wider Gelug tradition has also been underlined by a number of revisions made to later editions of his earlier publications. Geshe Kelsang's dedications to the long life of the Dalai Lama found in earlier editions of "Meaningful to Behold" are omitted from the fourth edition (1994) onwards. Also, Geshe Kelsang made revisions to the list of Mahamudra lineage gurus in the second edition of "Clear Light of Bliss" published in 1992. In the first edition, Phabongkha Rinpoche was followed by Trijang Rinpoche and Ling Rinpoche, the 'current holder of the throne of Ganden'. In the second edition, he omits Ling Rinpoche by replacing his name with that of 'Dorjechang Kelsang Gyatso Rinpoche' (i.e. Kelsang Gyatso). [David N. Kay: Tibetan and Zen Buddhism in Britain: Transplantation, Development and Adaptation, London and New York, page 89] Geshe Kelsang said at an NKT Festival in 1995 that the Gelug tradition is in a state of "serious degeneration". [David N. Kay: Tibetan and Zen Buddhism in Britain page 88]

In explaining this, Geshe Kelsang explains that if the Dalai Lama succeeds in destroying the practice of Dorje Shugden, the Gelug tradition itself will be destroyed: "If the practice of Dorje Shugden is harmful then it follows that Je Phabongkhapa was not an authentic Buddhist master, and if he was not then there is no doubt that his heart disciples, Kyabje Ling Rinpoche and Kyabje Trijang Rinpoche (the Senior and Junior Tutors of HH the Dalai Lama) were also not authentic. These three Lamas are the most important Gelugpa Lamas of recent times. If these three are not pure Teachers then there is no doubt that the entire practice of the Gelug Tradition is invalid. This is the main issue that needs clarification." [Geshe Kelsang Gyatso, False Accusations Against the Innocent, Letter to the Editor of Newsweek, 05 May 1997]

Exclusive reliance on Geshe Kelsang's teachings

According to Geshe Kelsang: "Every Teacher and every tradition has a slightly different approach and employs different methods. The practices taught by one Teacher will differ from those taught by another, and if we try to combine them we shall become confused, develop doubts, and lose direction. If we try to create a synthesis of different traditions we shall destroy the special power of each and be left only with a mishmash of our own making that will be a source of confusion and doubt. Having chosen our tradition and our daily practices we should rely upon them single-pointedly, never allowing dissatisfaction to arise. At the same time as cherishing our own tradition we should respect all other traditions and the right of each individual to follow the tradition of their choosing. This approach leads to harmony and tolerance. It is mixing different religious traditions that causes sectarianism. This is why it is said that studying non-religious subjects is less of an obstacle to our spiritual progress than studying religions of different traditions. Once we have decided which tradition to follow and which practices to do, we should engage in them wholeheartedly with a joyful mind. This is the power of joy. Whether we are listening to Dharma teachings, reading Dharma books, reciting prayers, contemplating, or meditating, we should do so with a light and happy mind, like a child at play. If we enjoy a practice we shall naturally have enthusiasm for it." [Geshe Kelsang Gyatso, Understanding the Mind: an Explanation of the Nature and Functions of the Mind, pp. 161-162, © 1993, 1997, 2002]

Geshe Kelsang has stated that the most effective way to progress spiritually is by "following one tradition purely relying upon one Teacher, practising only his teachings, and following his Dharma Protector. If we mix traditions many obstacles arise and it takes a long time for us to attain realizations." [Great Treasury of Merit: How to Rely Upon a Spiritual Guide, Kelsang Gyatso, Tharpa Publications (Jun 1992), page 31)".]

Kadampa ordination

According to the Vinaya and Pratimoksha there are different levels of ordination that can be given. Getsul or Shraminera ordination is given by a Sangha with a minimum of five fully ordained monks [Buddhist Ethics (Treasury of Knowledge) by Jamgon Kongtrul Lodro Taye, ISBN 1-55939-191-X, p. 90] . The NKT ordination tradition follows a simpler tradition, called the Rabjung (Rabtu Jungwa) ordination, which can be given by a single ordaining abbot. In the NKT, ordination is given by either the General Spiritual Director, presently Geshe Kelsang or the Deputy Spiritual Director. This means that one must be ordained to hold either of these two positions. Waterhouse states: NKT monks and nuns are considered by the NKT as ordained, and usually take the name 'Kelsang' from Geshe Kelsang as is common in Tibetan Buddhist tradition.

Geshe Kelsang explained his reasoning for using the Rabjung ordination at an ordination ceremony at Manjushri Mahayana Buddhist Centre on July 28, 1999, saying that he found it quite curious that traditionally the Mahayana tradition of Tibetan Buddhism should follow a Hinayana interpretation of the Vinaya. Following the tradition and understanding of Geshe Potowa, the level of ordination depends not upon how many vows one holds but one's level of renunciation, which determines the level at which the vows can be kept. As one's renunciation deepens, one gradually comes to hold first Getsul or Getsulma ordination and finally, when one attains spontaneous renunciation, one possesses the ordination of a Gelong or Gelongma (ie, full ordination).

He explained the ten vows of the Kadampa ordination to be the practical condensation of the 253 vows of a fully ordained monk in the Mulasarvastavadin lineage. He also said that the Kadampa Vinaya Sutra is the "Perfection of Wisdom Sutra" and that its commentary is Lamrim, the stages of the path to enlightenment. He said that the Tibetan word for Vinaya is 'dulwa' which means 'to control' and concluded by saying that because Lamrim functions to help us to control our mind, the real Vinaya is Lamrim.

Finally, he said:

...If someone criticizes your practice, then you can just reply, 'This is our tradition, but if your practice is better that is fine, I rejoice. You can eat your food, and we can eat our food.'"

Letter of Expulsion from the Sera Je Dratsang Monastery

According to Michael von Brück, in 1996 Geshe Kelsang was expelled by a number of abbots and Geshes from the community of Sera Je Monastery ::Fifteen abbots and teachers (Geshes) from Sera Je(now South India) wrote an open letter against Kelsang Gyatso, excluded him from the community of the monastery, named him an "apostate" and compared him with "Mahmud of Ghazni". [von Brück, Michael (1999). "Religion und Politik im Tibetischen Buddhismus", page 159. München: Kösel Verlag. ISBN 3-466-20445-3]

This was due to Geshe Kelsang's outspoken criticism against the Dalai Lama's ban of the practice of Dorje Shugden according to his supporters. [www.dorjeshugden.com] Like Geshe Kelsang, hundreds of other monks and nuns have been expelled from their monasteries because of refusing to give up their practice of Dorje Shugden.

James Belither, Gelug scholar, editor for Tharpa Publications, and former NKT Secretary, explains the circumstances surrounding Kelsang Gyatso's Geshe degree.

cquote|In Tibet before he joined Sera-je Monastery near Lhasa, Geshe Kelsang studied on the Geshe training programme for many years in his local monastery of Jampaling. He then took two examinations at the great monastic university of Tashi Lhunpo, one for memorization of texts, the second being the actual examination. After the second examination he was awarded a degree from that monastery, and from that time on the other monks and local people called him Geshe Kelsang.

Later, he continued with the Geshe training programme in Sera-je Monastery until he left for India in 1959, where he alternately studied and engaged in meditation retreats. One day he received a letter from Sera-je Monastery in south India, encouraging him to attend a Geshe offering ceremony and to take an examination in order to receive a certificate. In 1973 he went to Sera Monastery and made an extensive offering at the Geshe offering ceremony to a large assembly of monks from both Sera-je and Sera-mey monasteries, in Sera Tsogchen Prayer Hall. He also made the traditional offerings to Sera-je Monastery. On that occasion the monks of his class offered him a 'katag', or ceremonial scarf, and gifts in the traditional way. If he was not considered a Geshe then what was the point of inviting him to participate in this ceremony?

At that time he declined to take the examination, which was a new system that had been recently introduced. He later explained that this was because he did not think that receiving a piece of paper was important.

The present abbot of Sera-je, Geshe Jampa Tekchog, also made offerings at another Geshe offering ceremony and he also did not take this examination for receiving a certificate.

Lama Thubten Yeshe, founder of the FPMT, although he completed his Geshe studies, never took the examination for receiving his Geshe degree, although later Sera Monastery offered him an honorary Geshe degree, no doubt after he became so well-known.

If it has been known for years that Kelsang Gyatso is not a Geshe, then why has Sera Monastery waited until 1996 to declare him a fraud? For years, ever since 1978, a large number of Tibetan Lamas, including some of the most eminent within the Gelugpa Tradition have been invited by Geshe Kelsang to Manjushri Centre and other Centres. If he is a fraud then why did they not expose him?

Kyabje Ling Rinpoche, Kyabje Trijang Rinpoche, and the Dalai Lama have all written prefaces to his books. Kyabje Ling Rinpoche refers to Geshe Kelsang as 'this most precious Spiritual Guide'. Kyabje Trijang Rinpoche refers to him as 'The excellent expounder, the great Spiritual Master Kelsang Gyatso ...', and in the colophon to the long life prayer that he wrote for Kelsang Gyatso he says, 'This brief prayer for the long life of the Tsang-pa Geshe, Kelsang Gyatso, of Sera-je Monastery, who is endowed with great learning and immaculately pure conduct, ...'.

It is only now, when Geshe Kelsang has dared to face up to the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan government-in-exile in refusing to accept the Dalai Lama's ban against the practice of Dorje Shugden—a practice given to him by his Spiritual Guide Kyabje Trijang Rinpoche—that Geshe Kelsang's credentials as a Buddhist teacher have been called into question.

The campaign to discredit Geshe Kelsang is clearly an attempt to silence him and to act as a warning to others. As one Tibetan Lama living in America said to another Lama living in Germany who was planning to come out publicly against the Dalai Lama's ban 'No, you mustn't do that. They'll do to you what they've done to Geshe Kelsang.'

Actually, having been a student of Geshe Kelsang for the past twenty years, it matters little to me whether my teacher has an ecclesiastical title or not. The title 'Geshe' originally had the meaning of 'Virtuous or Spiritual Friend'. Through having been inspired by his writings, teachings, example, and personal advice, Geshe Kelsang is a dearly loved Spiritual Friend and Guide to myself and to thousands of others. [James Belither, alt.religion.buddhism.tibetan, 30 January 1998]

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*"Joyful Path of Good Fortune: The Complete Buddhist Path to Enlightenment", Tharpa Publications (Dec 1995)
*"Living Meaningfully, Dying Joyfully: The Profound Practice of Transference of Consciousness", Tharpa Publications (Sep 1999)
*"Mahamudra Tantra: An Introduction to Meditation on Tantra", Tharpa Publications (1 Sep 2005)
*"Meaningful to Behold: The Bodhisattva's Way of Life", Tharpa Publications; 4Rev Ed edition (Jan 1994)
*"The New Meditation Handbook: Meditations to Make Our Life Happy and Meaningful", Tharpa Publications (1 Sep 2003)
*"Ocean of Nectar: The True Nature of All Things", Tharpa Publications (Sep 1995)
*"Tantric Grounds and Paths: How to Enter, Progress on and Complete the Vajrayana Path", Tharpa Publications (19 Oct 1994)
*"Transform Your Life: A Blissful Journey", Tharpa Publications (Aug 2001)
*"Understanding the Mind: The Nature and Power of the mind", Tharpa Publications; 3Rev Ed edition (1 Aug 2002)
*"Universal Compassion: Inspiring Solutions for Difficult Times", Tharpa Publications; 4Rev Ed edition (1 Jul 2002)

Footnotes

References

* Belither, James. [http://www.meditateinireland.com/html_pages/Modern%20Day%20Kadampas.htm "Modern Day Kadampas: The History and Development of the New Kadampa Tradition"] . New Kadampa Tradition.
* Bluck, Robert (2006). "British Buddhism Teachings, Practice and Development". RoutledgeCurzon, ISBN 0-415-39515-1
* Brown, Andrew (1996). [http://www.tibet.com/dholgyal/CTA-book/chapter-5-5.html "Battle of the Buddhists"] . "The Independent", London, 15 July 1996.
* Bunting, Madeleine (1996). [http://www.tibet.com/dholgyal/CTA-book/chapter-5-4.html "Shadow Boxing on the Path to Nirvana"] . "The Guardian", London, 6 July 1996.
* Jones, Ken. [http://www.bpf.org/tsangha/jonesbritbudd.html "Many Bodies, One Mind": Movements in British Buddhism] . [http://www.bpf.org/html/home.html Buddhist Peace Fellowship] .
* Kay, David N. (2004). "Tibetan and Zen Buddhism in Britain: Transplantation, Development and Adaptation". London and New York: Curzon Press. ISBN 0-415-29765-6

External links

Official websites

* [http://www.kadampa.org/english/index.php/ New Kadampa Tradition official website]
* [http://www.tharpa.com Tharpa Publications - The publisher of Geshe Kelsang Gyatso's books]
* [http://www.newkadampatruth.org/internalrules.php Internal Rules of the New Kadampa Tradition]
* [http://www.meditateinlondon.org.uk/about-buddhism.php The Meditate in London site]

upporters of the New Kadampa Tradition

* [http://www.newkadampatruth.org/ Replying to the smear campaign against the New Kadampa Tradition and Geshe Kelsang]
* [http://www.dharmaprotector.org/ Geshe Kelsang Gyatso in his own words]
* [http://www.wisdombuddhadorjeshugden.org/ The Wisdom Buddha Protector of Je Tsongkhapa's Tradition]


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