Where are the Kadampas?

Kadampas everywhere, I think it is time you are heard.

Geshe Kelsang’s parting request at Festivals is to take the teachings we have heard and use them in our regular, everyday lives and family.

Here is where I am coming from. There are thousands of Kadampas out there. Many are not working directly for the New Kadampa Tradition ~ International Kadampa Buddhist Union (NKT~IKBU) Centers or may not even be attending Centers at the moment. (There are all sorts of reasons, but they are not relevant for the purposes of this argument).

What is relevant is that we are not hearing from any of these Kadampas — what they are up to, how they are using Kadampa Buddhism in creative ways to inspire and transform themselves and others at home, in jobs, or with family.

But is that not the meaning of  “Kadampa” (i.e. those who take Buddha’s teachings as personal advice and put them into practice in their daily lives)?

Google Kadampa or any variation on that theme and see what I mean — you’ll find (1) the official or corporate Center sites (all well and good, they do the job),  (2) a fair amount of criticism (some justified, most over the top), and (3) sites that address that criticism (they too do a good job). What you won’t find is (4) all the Kadampas.

The majority of Kadampas don’t seem to be represented on the Internet at all, yet this is where billions of people are hanging out these days.

We hear from each other at Festivals, and aren’t those Festivals amazing? I’m happy to spend money and time to go hear my Spiritual Guide — invaluable, but I also do it to meet up with you lot. I always find it inspiring and epic to hang out with old and new friends and hear what interesting stuff they’ve been up to. But then the Festival ends and we don’t hear another peep. The world at large, the one outside the Centers, could be forgiven for thinking these nice, creative, light-hearted, funny, down-to-earth, wise and warm Kadampas don’t exist.

One of my subscribers sent me some articles about how he uses Kadampa Buddhism in his job as a social worker. He said:

Becoming a social worker makes me a better Buddhist. Being a Buddhist makes me a better social worker.

I like this a lot. Isn’t that really the meaning of “Kadampa”? So I’m going to post the first of his articles soon. If any of you want to send me stuff, well why not, if I like it I’ll post that as well. Or post your own stuff on your own blog.

I hope my blog is just the beginning.

And … here they come!

Since I wrote the above,  Kadampa blogs are appearing. If you have one you would like linked here, please let me know.

Daily Lamrim

Kadampa Working Dad

This Mountain, That Mountain

Heart of Compassion


Transcultural Buddhism

Family Kadampa

Being Harmonious

Family Kadampa


Aspiring Kadampa

Kadampa Poetry

The Happy Kadampa

Kadampa World


My Mala is Now a Teething Toy

Dave X Robb

One in Spanish:

Luna Creciente

One in French:

A Bodhisattva for you

And two in Portuguese:

Reflexoes de um kadampa 
Coracao de sabedoria

On Tumblr:

Dancing Dakini

Kadampa Life on Tumblr

Also, the New Kadampa Tradition is starting to appear all over Facebook (and Twitter), with official fan pages for Geshe Kelsang Gyatso, New Kadampa Tradition, and Modern Buddhism, as well as a growing number of individual NKT Centers (and not to mention thousands of individual Kadampas).

Some unofficial Facebook pages

I have probably missed some, let me know.

Kadampa Buddhist Prayer Request — very popular page, ask for prayers for anyone who needs it.

Students and Followers of Geshe Kelsang Gyatso — discussion and links page

New Kadampa Tradition — discussion and links page

Kadampa Rejoicing Group — things to feel happy about.

Bunny Bodhi — musings from a wise, reflective Kadampa rabbit

Kadampa Life — links ‘n stuff, goes with this blog!

Luna Kadampa — also goes with this blog!

Family Kadampa — goes with blog of the same name

Kadampa parents forum

Kadampa professionals forum

Kadampa poets

Kadampa perfection of giving — a forum to give and/or request help when needed

Universal Buddhism ~ The New Kadampa Tradition — for links and discussion

I think these are very welcome developments, don’t you?!

Author: Luna Kadampa

Based on 40 years' experience, I write about applying meditation and modern Buddhism to improve and transform our everyday lives and societies. I try to make it accessible to everyone anywhere who wants more inner peace and profound tools to help our world, not just Buddhists. Do make comments any time and I'll write you back!

61 thoughts on “Where are the Kadampas?”

  1. We also have Kadampa Perfection of Giving page (https://www.facebook.com/groups/386517578212061/ )
    “We all have times in our samsaric lives where we find our conditions change and are in need of a little help….or karma smiled and we are able to to offer material help. This page was created for the sole purpose of being a safe place were people can ask for help, be it to get to dharma teachings and festivals, a personal problem, or a virtuous intention to help another or cause. This in itself is a form of giving, providing an opportunity for those with better conditions to gather immeasurable merit. So whether you are in need or have the ability to help, we are all in this together, and hope this page will be of benefit.
    Some wisdom words from Kadampa Ryan from a post on the Students and Followers page…..
    ” Venerable Tharchin says it does not matter how much we give, what matters is how often we generate the mind of giving. If we have only $1, we can give 1 cent 100 times. This creates the mental habits of giving. The only reason why we have anything now is because we gave in the past. If we give nothing now, we will have nothing in the future.”
    So feel free to post your various fundrazr pages, or share a need that you may have or are aware of.

  2. Please consider my blog Being Harmonious on kelsangodro.wordpress.com. There’s only one article so far. It’s very much a work in progress!

    1. Added 🙂 I think you are off to a great start. You might want to change your actual blog URL to Being Harmonious.org or something, not your name, so people can find it if searching.

  3. I’m so happy to have just discovered this blog, having come to this page from the excellent article on Red Nose Day, which I found through the Kadampa professionals Facebook page…so something is working! I am in the Foundation Program at the Meditation Center in San Francisco, and I also write a blog that sometimes talks about Dharma: http://davexrobb.wordpress.com/. I talk about a lot of other things, too, but folks can sort on the “Buddhism” tag if they want to bypass the rest.

  4. So happy that Kadampas are beginning to make some noise !!! Check out how the Rasta message of One Love spread from the 70″s onwards – through their standing tall and Chanting Down Babylon. We actually have a method to Burn Samsara with Wisdom Fire !! Shout it from the rooftops … or , let a Love Virus leak on the net !!
    More power to yah xxx
    Peace x

      1. Thanks for the encouragement – much appreciated! And good luck with whatever it is you’re cooking up for this weekend. My eyes are peeled.

  5. Thank you (Luna and our cyber community) for helping me change.

    I read this when it was first posted, and couldn’t really relate. I was still quite closed off to people; which prevents you from sharing or learning much from other Kadampas. Reading it now is like reading a different article. I totally know where you’re coming from, and agree whole-heartedly. Kadampas are go!

    So yeah, thanks 乂⍲‿⍲乂

      1. It’s mad! For many of us, it seems like years of creating causes have suddenly ripened into the most amazing effects 🙂 Feels like a lifetime squished into a year.

  6. Finding a Kadam Dharma center was a treasure to me, almost 6 years ago… i was divorced after 20 years of married and feeling lost and broke. 4 sons… full of anger and pain…with a big pride mind…thinking i need no one… suddenly a friend took me to the Center… like most of all, i start going once in a while.. then i found myself going more often. i just wanted to say Kadam Dharma changed my whole life for good….every time i get into my Center i feel i am in Heruka´s Mandala… it appears like it..! i hope some day i could correspond to the kindness of our Guru…for being a Dharma Kadam student and practitioner… i feel blessed.

  7. I have been heavily involved in NKT activities for 6 years,been to lots of festivals, went to FP, assisted classes and Teachers and taught sometimes also. I lived in a centre which i helped establish also.
    I am not such a big part of these activities anymore, but this time “away” has really made me connect deeper to the actual Dharma itself and my Root Guru. I know that i will always be welcome at my Centre etc.. and am grateful to that, but I have to say that for me personally I really needed to “break away” for a while as I was losing the essence, the meaning and the inspiration that drew me to it in the first place and its so easy to get very attached to one’s teacher and Sangha friends. This time away has made me really understand how hard I need to work internally. It has been very painful and hard but it was something I really needed to do. It has made me really appreciate my daily practice and study on and off the cushion. I will begin to start attending things again now, but will not be as involved as I was before. I am very grateful to everything the NKT has given to me and it is my responsibility to walk the internal Buddhist Path and no one elses. 🙂

    1. Thanks Andrew. I think a lot of people will identify with your comment because we all go through phases depending on what we need — and there is no point in being attached to any of them. Main thing is that we keep going, and never lose sight of the wood for the trees.

    1. I came out of the retreat with a sense of reewnal, of having strengthened my commitment to walk the path of developing wisdom and compassion, and of having clarified some methods on how to go about it. This was possible thanks to Rinpoche’s wonderful ways of communicating the Buddha’s Teachings with total relevance to my everyday life.

  8. So true…about the NKT, perhaps sometimes we grasp at things that feel very precious to us/an important part of life, like our faith or the religious organisation we feel we belong or don’t belong to, wherever I get my support. I think it is my own Dharma practice that counts, cherishing others and the relationship between my spirtual guide and i.

  9. Luna, regarding your afterword:

    To me, the NKT is the pure aims of Geshe Kelsang Gyatso.

    That is the heart of it, and everything else, what people may or may not say and do, is ‘secondary’.

    That is why, to me, the NKT is pure. Like everything, the NKT is dependent upon how you see it, dependent upon your karma. I am far far far from perfect in life and mind and personality but I hope always to have a view like this.

    The NKT has given me so much.

    1. Beautiful. And Geshe-la said that he was the NKT, so that makes sense. As the scriptures remind us again and again, the preciousness of the Spiritual Guide depends upon us, not him or her.

  10. I think this blog is so accurate. Sometimes we think that being a Buddhist is denying circumstances in everyday life. I have learnt so much from my uni friends and because i am studying religion i have come to see how we can help and cherish… others in or out of a religious organization. Having mutual respect for other cultures is so important. Xenophobia, the us and them mentality, is what causes conflict in the world. I believe like Geshela says it is our actions in everyday life that matter — the practice of the six perfections and trying to remember these each day is what keeps me going:)

  11. To me, the issue is not really the NKT itself but the lineage of the realizations stemming from the experiential accomplishments of the teachers. I wouldn’t want to learn accounting from some PHD who never worked in an accounting department or performed an audit. Being a student of Dharma can be purely intellectual and not experiential. I only share Dharma with others that I experience otherwise I give credit to a teacher I know and trust.

    Intellectualizing about emptiness is not the same as actually being in meditative absorption single-pointedly focused on emptiness with a mind on some level of tranquil abiding. The tantric teachings allow such a concentrated state of mind that the experiential sublties in Buddha’s teachings on emptiness can be realized by samasric beings such as us. This the true gift of the union of Sutra and Trantra taught by the original students of Geshe Kelsang Gyatso.

    I know when I am being taught by the voice of experience or an academic wizkid! I know it in accounting my profession and I know it Lamrim, Lojong, and Vajrayana.

    If you have expereinced the absorbption meditation of the three bringings and the four joys while focused single pointedly upon the emptiness of emptiness as outlined in Chanrkirti’s poem Guide to the Middle Way you are so very fortunate indeed. Geshe-la kindly gave us that nifty little Dharma book ” Ocean of Necta”r to wrap our delusional minds around.

    I for one, wish to curtail my experiences aniding in Chanrakirti’s samsaric bucket smashing to and fro up and down the inside of that well. Thank you Geshe-la for bringing Kadam Dharma to the West!

    A blissful journey to you all and to all a good night!

  12. Well Kadampa is not exclusive to the NKT its been around since Atisha and other traditions of Buddhism say they are Kadampas also. I dont think the NKT is the world representative of Lamrim just as the FPMT are not the only people working to preserve the Mahayana tradition. Geshela in many of our teachings has said that Lamrim practice is being neglected or put aside and this is wrong and why he has told us to emphasize Lamrim. I think he is not saying that we are the only people emphasizing Lamrim. He is trying to encourage everyone who has Lamrim in the monasteries where he came from to increase Lamrim there.

    I understand what you are saying about the box. I see in myself personally a situation where my own mental tendancies of being ‘self orientated’ make the whole world revolve around me and the NKT. This is my innate delusions as taught by Buddha so its normal but I try to counteract it because to widen ones scope opens up the Mahayana way of life. Cherishing others is so amazing and its all thanks to my teacher Venerable Geshe Kelsang Gyatso that I have learned these things. The world is so much better when you value others. Its so ugly to have minds of disrespect and belittling others, devalueing and underestimating them constantly, competing with them. Its such a relief to let go of all that ugliness and be as excited and blissed out at seeing others as you previously felt when you looked in the mirror.

    When I started Buddhism I didnt feel joy when I saw others I felt judgemental. Some were deluded, some were ‘wasting their lives’, some were role models. Everyone was given marks out of 10. This is the box I lived in; the NKT box, which gave me special status and importance. I am still in the NKT but its not a box now. The true NKT is in the mind of our mothers. Their trials and tribulations and search for happiness. Its in the streets, the schools, the offices, the burrows, nests etc.

    I think you are right about Kadampas sharing but there is a fear of this. The main fear is that as time passes things will degenerate. People will start expressing incorrect meanings as the teaching, and these incorrect meanings will spread and become popular. For example they may give very ‘self orientated’ explanations of Buddhism and if people enjoy it then its said this form of discourse is benefitting many people…this teacher his charisma inspires me, for example. So people are being quiet so that no versions are created and only the main discourses are emphasized.

    My main concern is if the teaching become solely focused on improving this life. We already have a tendancy to grasp onto this life and forget future lives so that filterng into the teaching makes it all about how to eat cakes without attatchment and how to feel better when in the office.

    1. Can eating cakes without attachment and feeling better when in the office not be part of a spiritual path?!

      We do have a tendency to forget Dharma, such as the importance of future lives, but I don’t believe that sharing our experiences of Dharma is a cause of this.

      I think you are right that if people “express incorrect meanings as the teaching”, some degeneration could occur. But I think we can exaggerate that threat and then we are ruled by fear. We can then become dinosaurs in a world that has moved on. Geshe Kelsang has told us to go to where the people are and not expect them all to come to us. Two billion people spend a considerable amount of time in the virtual online world, so that would seem to be where we need to be too.

      The danger of degeneration as people share their Dharma experiences frankly cannot be worse than the blogs and so on that are already being written by people who dislike the NKT (and that is an understatement). It would be nice to restore some balance on the world wide web. As long as we all try and follow the teachings by remaining humble, pure-hearted and kind, and don’t set ourselves up as teachers, there’s no problem. And the blogs that make no sense will not attract an audience anyway.

      Blogs, FB comments etc are conversations between Dharma friends. Just as we wouldn’t dream of monitoring such conversations, we don’t need to worry about controlling the online conversations. Just as naturally there will be sane and wise voices within a conversation among Dharma friends, there will sane and wise voices in the online conversation bringing the conversation back to a positive place. Why? Because it’s in everyone’s interest that the blogs etc be productive and beneficial. So if mistakes are occasionally made, it’s no big deal, because they will rectified in time.

      Teachers make some mistakes even when teaching as they don’t have all the realizations yet themselves. I hate to say it, but not too long ago I heard a senior student make several Dharma howlers in one teaching, and some people wrote them down! But I had to relax about it because I know that sooner or later these things do get rectified through discussion etc. The only entirely non-deceptive source of Dharma in the New Kadampa Tradition is Geshe Kelsang’s books, which are the beating heart of the three study programs. The rest will depend on the good heart and ongoing study of the teachers and the faith of the students.

  13. Being a Buddhist means others happiness is important and matters to me! My spiritual guide founded the NKT and through his kindness my delusions are less severe! The NKT is empty as anything else. Unfortunately, if the lineage of Je Tsongkappa’s teachings is broken what is the NKT then? My realizations continue to grow because I always look to Guru Buddha at my heart – where loving kindness and compassion mixes with ultimate truth. The NKT has brought pure Buddhadharma to the West and my teachers provided the example for me to follow.

  14. For me the NKT is just like a family really. It’s easy to get attached to the idea of ‘my’ family and feel that everyone else is separate but we should remember that this family is different in that everyone is welcome to join the family whenever they want to. In truth, everyone already is a part of this family because if we practise what we’re taught at our NKT Centres then we should be regarding all living beings as our kind mother anyway 🙂

  15. I am a Kadampa at heart though I do not practice formally at one of the Kadampa Buddhist Centers. I received my HYT empowerment from Geshe-la in Singapore and my life has been totally transformed.

    One of my former Kadampa teachers asked me to share how I use my spiritual practice to make my accounting practice. The first thing I did was join the local Rotary club. The purpose of Rotary is to business network for the benefit of yourself and others. Sound somewhat familiar? Next, I used my Tantric practice to overcome shyness. I become one of the welcome guys at the front desk and get to shake everyone’s hand as they enter the meeting. I use self-generation practice for each and every handshake as i welcome fellow Rotarians into Keajra – Vajrayogini’s Pure Land. Is it any surprise I have moved up in the organization. I next became attendance Secretary where I get to encourage more members to come to the meetings. They tell me all kinds of stories that help my compassion practice and test my wisdom practice.

    I have more very similar stories. I hope i have not broken any Tantric vows. I do not think I have. My teacher asked me to share how accounting can be a spiritual practice so I did. Nothing we normally see exists! Therefore, I can and will bring the future results of my practice into my present reality.

    Thanks Geshe-la for your wonderful kindness bringing pure Dharma to the West. This comment is written with the intent to help set all samsaric beings free from the suffering of their delusions and confusion!

    1. Thank you Ike. I like your method for overcoming shyness! Even without Highest Yoga Tantra empowerments, people can do something similar by generating themselves as Buddha Shakyamuni (as explained in the book Joyful Path) or as a Bodhisattva. Bringing the result into the path always hugely speeds up our spiritual progress!

      1. That’s inspiring Ike, both for your own practice, and because of the huge benefit others receive from you having a special view of them. (I hope it’s 0K, but I’ve shared your comment in my blog. It shows how Tantra simplifies things and makes them pure http://wp.me/p1ZGTS-JE)
        Luna reminded us “as Geshe-la says, you don’t need to be a Dharma millionaire to share Dharma. You just need a few coins.” Just by believing that your environment, others and oneself are pure, you’re actually making it happen! “Re-structuring our eternity” as Gen Tarchin says.
        I hope you do start your own blog Ike, it would be inspirational. You are a Kadampa, like me, trying your best to put Mahayana Kadam Buddhism into practice. We all have a unique view on things, and something to share. 乂⍲‿⍲乂

  16. I am in Fundamental Program, I live in Mexico, and sometimes I think we should talk more about how can we integrate the Dharma in every day. I know, for my own experience, that it is not so easy. I appreciate this blog because it help us and give us inspiration. Also I have the privilege to have Guen-la Kelsang Kunsang as my teacher.

  17. Living outside a centre makes me connect in a deeper way with our Spiritual Guide. Seeing other living beings around me who suffer and have no refuge inspires me to take more responsibility for my spiritual practice because their karma with me is a way for them to benefit from Buddha’s blessings. Sometimes new and challenging situations arise and I cannot immediately or directly receive help from Sangha friends so I go for refuge much more deeply to my Spiritual Guide.

    1. Thank you Isa. It is so true that we are responsible for our own spiritual path, and that if we understand that we can really rely well upon our Spiritual Guide.

  18. Inspiring. Thank you Amy. Would love to hear more about your work as a Hospice Social Worker and how you integrate Buddhism into it. Do you feel like writing an article or two?

  19. I lived at Saraha Center for 8 years. Pretty much raised two kids there as a single mom. Now I am a Social Worker for Hospice. Only get to classes once in awhile due to still being a single mom with 2 teenagers. I find that I just naturally give tiny little Dharma teachings to patients, friends and colleagues.These small little things I say always seems to have this profound impact on people . Dharma is true medicine for people. They started to call me a Guru. Of course I clarified that I am an idiot just like most people but had some beautiful karma to run into beautiful teachings. Then I refer them to Kelsang Gyatso and Buddha.

  20. Hi Abiding in Wisdom Fire,

    I agree it is a choice. And we are all adults, we need to take responsibility for own own spiritual path. If we find excuses not to engage fully in our spiritual practice, it doesn’t matter where we are, around a center or far away — the (non)-results will be the same.

    If you feel like sharing, it’d be great to hear more about how you live your “ENTIRE life INSIDE my Sadhana- so that every thought and action was Dharma” and why our Sadhanas are “particularly suited” to people living in this time period and in this western culture.

    All the best,

  21. I lived at various Dharma Centers and Temples for over 10 years starting in the mid 90’s. Several years ago I moved back to be close with my family, and haven’t been to a Center or Temple (aside from some festivals with Geshe-la) for a long time. The interesting thing I found was that this whole experience has deepened and strengthened my practice. After merely reciting the words of my sadhanas for many years, out here away from other Sangha and teachings, I realized that what was eluding me was actually quite simple; It was a choice (as Geshe-la always says)- I could make the choice to live my ENTIRE life INSIDE my Sadhana- so that every thought and action was Dharma. It turned out to be a lot easier than I thought, and I finally fully understood why our Sadhanas are “particularly suited” to people living in this time period and in this western culture. I am happy and confident to be counted among the many Kadampas practicing outside the influence of a Temple or Center, not out of anger, but as a testament to the power of Guru Manjushri’s teachings.

  22. Kadampa Buddhism is alive and well in southwest Florida. I see many faces, old and new, on a weekly basis coming to learn something about buddhism. I began attending in hopes of becoming a calmer person but found soo much more. We are fortunate to have these teachings in our lives and hopefully more will come to experience the joy too.
    So many of us lead very busy lives and can’tfind the time or energy to do what you are doing with this blog. I hope it flourishes. Thank you for spending time and energy on it because many will benefit.

  23. I’m from Brazil, and I’m a Kadampa Buddhist since I was a kid. I reeeeeally love your blog. It inspires me a lot and all that you said here is completely true.

    Sometimes we think that there is just us and our Kadampa Centre in Kadampa Buddhist. We dont have the idea that we are thousands! A thousands faithful practitioners that we don’t know that exists, but they are simple like us. Working and dedicating them selves to be a better person.

    And its just inspiring and marvelous when we hear about others practitioners (that we do or don’t knew) and how they apply Buddha’s teachings on daily life. And you are one of these examples.


    Thank you for that.
    And always remember that you are always benefiting a lot of people writing on this blog.

    1. I knew I was a Kadampa but I forgot this simple definition you gave: those who take Buddha’s teachings as personal advice and put them into practice in their daily lives. Yep, me…. ditto to what Stella said lo those many years ago.

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