By Sherab Gyaltsen
BRISTOL, UK, 2 February 2016
On the afternoon of Sunday, 31 January, a group of approximately 25 Tibetans, former members of the New Kadampa Tradition (NKT), and their supporters gathered outside Amitabha NKT Centre in Gloucester Road, Bristol, England, to protest the NKT’s worldwide defamation campaign against the Dalai Lama. Members of the NKT have openly stated that the aim of their campaign is to destroy the reputation of the Dalai Lama and bring about his downfall.
For the last two years the leaders of the New Kadampa Tradition, under the banner of their political front group, the International Shugden Community, have organised loud, intrusive, and offensive protests at venues all over the world, wherever the Dalai Lama has given public talks and Dharma teachings. They use loudspeakers, drums, bullhorns, and incessant hypnotic chanting of hateful slogans in order to disrupt these teachings, causing great pain and upset to the followers of the Dalai Lama, who wish only to be allowed to listen in peace to the teachings of the greatest living Buddhist master today.
During the Bristol demonstrations, local Tibetan community organiser Sherab Gyaltsen urged the general public to carefully investigate the NKT before becoming involved with them. Linda Ciardiello read a speech which highlighted allegations against the NKT by its former members — descriptions of its cultish, exploitative nature whereby the interests of the organisation are always put above the welfare of its members, many of whom have experienced all manner of spiritual, psychological, physical and sexual abuse and exploitation at their hands. She also drew attention to a recent Reuters news investigation which revealed the connections between the NKT campaign and its covert support from the Chinese Communist Party. Lama Lobsang appealed to the NKT teachers to desist from their baseless campaign against the Dalai Lama.
In addition to the demonstration, over 1,000 information leaflets about the New Kadampa Tradition’s activities were distributed in the local area, door-to-door and to passers-by, many of whom showed a lot of interest in the issue and offered their support with cars tooting their horns and people offering refreshments to the demonstrators. Prior to the event, the Bristol Post published an extensive article about the reasons for the demonstration, including an interview and photograph of Sherab Gyaltsen, and sent a journalist and photographer to cover the event on Sunday.
One local resident who joined the demonstration, but asked to remain anonymous, told of a Tibetan Buddhist friend who felt compelled to leave the area many years ago when the Amitabha Centre was established in Bristol, due to unusual nightmares he experienced, whereby he was being attacked by a demonic spirit — even finding long scratch marks on his body in the morning. The significance of this story was not lost on Lama Lobsang in particular, who said it was an important indication that gave support to the Dalai Lama’s advice against the worship of Dolgyal Shugden, NKT’s favoured Protector deity, because its nature is that of a malevolent worldly spirit, associated with bitter sectarian violence, hatred and division within the Tibetan community.
Towards the end of the demonstration a letter was delivered at the door of the Amitabha Centre (received by a resident NKT nun) addressed to the resident teacher, Kelsang Chonden (Nick Baylis), containing an appeal to the NKT to stop their baseless campaign of hatred against the Dalai Lama and to stop hurting the Tibetan people.