Suggestions on how to charge for classes in the NKT

 

March 7, 2016

Dear Venerable Geshe-la, and Gen-la Jampa,

I am writing to you to make some suggestions on the way we charge for classes in the NKT: first of all I want to say that I thank both of you very much for time, because I know you are busy, and also for your teachings, which are really priceless, and worth all the gold (or green papers with Presidents, in the case of the U.S.) that we have. I would like to say at the outset, that I am uncomfortable with the idea that we are charging for Dharma, though I know we do not actually use the money for any worldly purposes, but I am afraid it is not that skillful, because others who are new, may not understand, and may leave before they try us out.  That said, of course we must get money to pay for the Centers to run, so here are some issues and some suggestions for helping it work better, at least for places like the U.S. where the wealth is very unevenly distributed.

Here are the current issues we have with the way we ask for money:

  1. We ask the same price of everyone regardless of the person’s income, and it is at the discretion of the Center in question whether to even respond to the person’s request; this puts at a great disadvantage for receiving teachings, anyone who is low income.  I did not receive, for instance, any communication regarding either CADC’s Shakyamuni empowerment nor the TTP at Rigpa’s Center; I nearly missed the CADC because of it, being saved by a non-Buddhist sponsor at the last second; as for TTP, I have never heard a word in months; I can’t enroll in anything when I don’t have money and also don’t hear back.  This can affect others the same exact way—but only the poor subset.
  2. We require no proof on the person’s part that they are actually in dire straits financially so we have the issue that some people may assume we are asking for a discount we don’t need. Non-profits ask for proof of income all the time— people who are on low income should not be discriminated against on that basis; asking for proof of income or hardship would be fine with me.
  3. There is an intense wealth gap forming in the U.S. with the classes being delineated into the uber wealthy, a shrinking middle class, moderate income, and poor people.  Our current practices in the NKT of demanding money for a seat at teachings discriminates against the latter two groups.  I am in the last group, according to the U.S. government (under poverty level for Americans— which of course does not mean that I do not have a place to live or access to food and clothing.  Our poverty level though, does mean I do not have 70 or 40 dollars a month to give to Buddhist Centers; for a middle class person giving 40-70 dollars is like my giving only 1 or something dollars, though I am willing to pay more relative to my income, like as much as possible).
  4. You have made the Dharma very accessible to the west in converting its essence to be applied to our culture; one thing you will please understand is that our families etc. are mostly Christians.  Christian churches NEVER charge for teachings, though they ask members to give 10 percent of their income— we do not have to be just like the churches! But I will say, for people in the west, when a religious organization demands money a person doesn’t have to be a member of the group that is one of the hallmark signs of and red flags for that organization’s being a cult.  They may misunderstand us as one, if we do not change our policies.
  5. Some people, if unpopular for other reasons, such as myself for writing to you about lineage mixings, may never get a response if we have to keep asking for reduced fees for teachings.  This is currently what is happening to me in regards to TTP at Gen Rigpa’s center, KMC CA, because if his AD or EPC will not, or are not allowed to write, then I am not allowed to even know if I can be part of the class.  This helps get rid of people, but only works if the person is poor.  Thus, this policy allows for politics against people but at the same time, it discriminates against only poor people.
  6. Daycourses, empowerments, etc.: I have only been to I believe 2 daycourses in 7 years of NKT Buddhism, and a lot of classes by correspondence.  I have not been able to afford a babysitter and pay the daycourse fee, and there is no correspondence for daycourses.  I do not leave my child with a sitter generally, as I cannot afford one; the only times I have happened to leave her with a sitter have been to go to occasional dayclasses (the two I mentioned) and a Nyune and a few FP/GP classes.  I don’t go to the movies or out to dinner and leave my kid with a sitter; I can’t afford a sitter is the main reason, but I also can’t usually afford the dinner or movies either.  So you see for me, going to a daycourse already requires expense, so that becomes an obstacle; other single parents are most likely affected similarly.  When I think of it, the only time I have ever paid for sitting for my child has been to go to Buddha’s teachings.  They are the most important thing in the world to me, but I just can’t get to them often because the course fees are so high, combined with the other expenses.

I think a reasonable solution would be to ask for suggested donations above the amount you need, and try to make it so that people understand to give; if that doesn’t work then membership fees etc. are fine, but we must have an easier way for people to automatically qualify for reasonable reduced rates, showing income like paystubs or letters stating what they get, and signing a form saying that we aren’t withholding information might be helpful. This is normal for non-profits in our society, so might be helpful to try.

I hope this was useful information, and maybe we can fix it so people can come to teachings and things even if we do not have the exact amount of green papers with Presidents available to give at the door.  I very much understand that neither of you care about money, but I am only writing because the class fees have gotten out of hand for a lot of us.

Thank you for your consideration.

Please remove the Wealth Requirements for Teachings and Empowerments

 

Dear Gen-la Jampa,                                                                       March 2, 2016

I want to address to you a concern I have regarding wealth requirements to receive teachings and empowerments.  I understand it costs money to run Centers and we want people to come who are interested enough to pay in.  However, I do not have the money, at the moment, to be part of any program at any NKT Center, nor do I have the money to attend empowerments and teachings when the cost is quite high— like at Rigpa’s Center for California Dharma— the cost is 85 dollars; combined with getting to the empowerment, this is too much for me, yet when I asked for waived fees I received no reply at all.

I also have not received a reply on whether or not I can take a class by correspondence TTP, from Rigpa’s Center, which would also have to be at reduced fees.  I am uncomfortable with the Kadam Morten style of mixed teachings which do not seem to follow Geshe-la’s books; Angie Kane teaches in the same style, so I am concerned that I cannot receive teachings at my local center.  Regardless, I cannot pay you full price for teachings, and something must be done for those of us who cannot pay; I have never been to an away retreat, because I cannot afford one; I have skipped most classes taught by valid teachers when available, just because I cannot pay for them.

Sometimes, I might come if I could have waived fees or pay something nominal; for instance, I pay 18 dollars a month to ride the trolley and bus, for a disability pass, but the normal price per month is about 75 dollars.  I would pay 50 dollars a month for internet but since my daughter qualifies for free lunch at the national school lunch program, I pay only 10.  Some method where it is almost nothing according to most people but still significant to me might be fair.  What is not good is to say that I would pay the full amount or not be responded to, or pay the full amount in other words, or not come.  To me, this is a clear case of making bad rules, and it entails the result of bad karma from lives past that I am on the receiving end of this, but I think that there is bad karma being created by those who do not want me to attend for a rate that I can actually pay, even if that rate is so close to nothing that they can’t see the point of it (for instance how much I pay for bus with a disability pass vs how much I would pay without it— if it were not for the disability pass, I would not go anywhere).

This is a problem that affects not only me, but might affect others.  I know my psychiatrist is very disturbed that they are asking for money, and can’t understand, much like some of the teachers at the temple, why I won’t just go to the Thich Nhat Hanh Center, which is free.  Because the Thict Nhat Hanh Center, while I am sure is lovely and full of Buddha merits for those on the zen path, does not have our path, and does not have Dorje Shugden, which is a requirement for me; I have the Dorje Shugden heart commitment from you, and I am asking please, as DSD will you help us form a policy that people of lesser incomes can pay less or have fees waived if necessary; we have a long-term low money issue in that I am on disability and my daughter on welfare.  I am sure it would help others receive teachings if these requirements were less stringent and if people would at least acknowledge one another’s financial issues, rather than acting like is just a lack of merit on part; according to you, the Buddha and yogi Milarepa would be turned away at the door if he didn’t find enough green pieces of paper with dead Presidents to make the requirement; I don’t think Milarepa lacked merit by the time he was a Buddha— obviously not— he might have sung you a song instead of coming inside and given you up as a bad job.

At any rate, my daughter and I are to miss this year’s CADC due to lack of communication about the possibility of waiving our fees; that is very sad as it is our spiritual equivalent of Christmas every year; we cannot receive the blessings of Buddha Shakyamuni because I do not have enough green pieces of paper with dead Presidents on them to give at the door.  That is very bad karma for the people who are blocking us, but it is also a waste of time that people like my daughter and me, who are obviously quite interested in the Dharma and have been practicing for years (and I must have written you at least 250 pages by now—almost a dissertation length amount of paper) so please understand us as interested parties in the Kadam Dharma, but we do not have very much money at all.  Please change the rules so we no longer have wealth requirements to get into empowerments, retreats, and teachings.

Thank you for your consideration.

Retaliation for writing the NKT about their DL people

Dear Ven. Geshe-la,                                                                        Feb. 29, 2016

 
  I sincerely hope this letter finds you in good health and living for a very long time.  I am writing in regards to the retaliation I have received for mentioning the lineage mixing that we have in California and mentioning to you specific people who have done this mixing and the people who may well be from other schools.  
  My family is being kept out of this year’s California Dharma Celebration, because we cannot pay the fees, and despite repeated emailing, they simply will not respond.     
We have received no information regarding waived fees for California Dharma nor for the TTP which I asked to join at the same temple by correspondence.  No one, it appears, is allowed to advocate on my behalf, and our estrangement from most of the Sangha has resulted in our not having friends to ask for help.  I do not even know if our sponsor from the Portugal trip is even alive, as she quit speaking to me one day before the trip and I have only seen her at a few pujas since.
  I cannot even get a response whether it is possible or not; for us, it is not possible to get up there AND pay the entry fee, so at this point, we will not be able to go.  I am writing you, with much sadness in my heart and tears in my eyes, because not only did they take over your temples, but now if anyone says anything, that person is kept out using any excuse: in mine they use my lack of wealth as my disqualification.
  I did long protector last night, and thought to go again to the temple, but it is like why am I practicing with people who all hate me?  They hate me for doing your practice, Ven. Geshe-la, and for calling them out on their lies.  Their lies harm all living beings, so please help us.  We want very much to receive blessings and be part of your school, but this is not possible with the current wealth requirements.
  Thank you,
 Kelly Inman

Why is an NKT National Spiritual Director mixing teachings?

Dear Venerable Geshe Kelsang Gyatso,
   I am confused right now, where are many of the teachers getting teachings from, because they do not seem to be the same teachings that I got from your books or the monks that followed your books.  I want to start out by saying I think Kadam Morten has good qualities like humour, and I can see he is a good teacher.  However, I am not sure if he is really teaching your lineage, but rather mixing, which has been all too common.
    The video in question is the first in a series from Kadampa Center New York called “Practical Advice: The Mediation Break,” in which Kadam Morten touches on the topic of anger.  He mentions that if anger arises in our mind to breathe— to go back to the breath.  THis is Thich Nhat Hanh’s advice, and while Buddhist, I am not sure I can find this very same advice in your books, which are a pure lineage of Buddhism we are supposed to be studying rather than mixing.  Kadam Morten says not to debate with our anger— because we are deluded at that moment.  He doesn’t mention applying a lojong remedy— which is what I get from your books.  Instead he says to go back to the breath all day long (which again sounds like Thich Nhat Hanh—not wrong for Thich Nhat Hanh’s lineage but we are a different lineage than that); Morten also says that when we go back to the breath we have just gone for refuge; to me my breath is not refuge.  He also says we should be going back to the breath all day.
  My experience with combating anger is quite different than Morten’s; as I apply your teachings as antidotes— so I say— okay anger I am not putting up with you— then I watch the anger and start applying remedies or firing Dorje Shugden mantras at my anger.  I will not put up with you is not repression (which Morten mentions) as long as we are watching the anger— we can apply loving kindness to combat the anger— which is supposed to keep it from arising later, is my understanding.  My personal method is to tell it is has to go— it is harming my praticing of helping living beings and is just a seed arising in my mind.  I go to refuge to Dorje Shugden and ask he help me combat anger— I notice he is very helpful for lojong.
  Though I have this experience were I teaching (which I have never done though people who mix teach a lot right now in your school), I would try to stay more to the official line, because I don’t know what different people may experience and in a general class, some people haven’t got much experience with Dorje Shugden.  However, this does not mean I wouldn’t mention him as helpful.
  I am not sure where the mixing with the follow the breath stuff is coming from, but I was just wondering why a National Spiritual Director is teaching in a way that seems mixed.
 Can you please help us to restore the teachings.
  Sincerely,
 Kelly Inman

Does the NKT plan to stay with Dorje Shugden?

Dear Ven. Geshe-la,                                                                 12-10-15

  I hope this OSG you are in good health; I have a question for you: I just watched a segment on the 4 Kadampa deities: I believe the monk(?), who sounded British, who talked mentioned that Wisdom Buddha (which he did refer to as Dorje Shugden) is the fourth Deity, and he mentioned that we had two other Buddhas before Dorje shugden that were Wisdom Buddha.
  Wisdom Buddha is the 4th Deity— this leads me to wonder if you think we have to give up Dorje Shugden in this school?  Because it sounds like they will just rename him something else perhaps—
  I wrote you before that there was talk in the children’s class from the then resident teacher about how we might change from Dorje Shugden to another Dharma Protector.  I ask only because I must stay with Dorje Shugden; if I had some assurance from you that we will remain with Shugden then I could probably take HYT more easily– I believe it would benefit beings on all kinds of levels to hear you assure us of this;  it’ will be fine if he would rather be Pema or Karma or Ratna Shugden, Vairochana Shugden, but he and I need him to Dorje Shugden 5 lineages— not change to whatever the popular lamas like so we can rejoin with other schools that are scared of Dorje Shugden– and be assimilated by the politicians.  Dorje Shugden protects me from political -lamas so could you please assure us if you intend our school to stay with Dorje Shugden?
  So I ask you, may I have your assurance that your school intends to stay with Dorje Shugden?  May we call him that, rather than Wisdom Buddha?  I think “Wisdom Buddha” is a childish sounding name rendered into English, like calling Mahakala “Compassion Buddha” or something— to me there is no need to fear the name of Shugden.
  Please may we have your assurance that we intend for Dorje Shugden to be our Wisdom Buddha protector.  Please Geshe-la, will you clarify this, before it is too late.
  May you live long, though our merit is lacking.
  Best regards,
  Kelly Inman

The Problem of the Dalai Lama

September 26, 2015

Dear Ven. Geshe Kelsang, Your Holiness Karmapa (Thaye Dorje), Your Holiness Trijang Rinpoche, and Kundeling Rinpoche:

I hope this letter finds all of you in good health.  I am writing to discuss further an issue which concerns all of Vajrayana Buddhism, the issue of the Dalai Lama.  Please understand I have the utmost respect for the Dharma, and am very concerned for its flourishing.  It seems to me that the institution of the Dalai Lama, when he passes away and the 15th recognition is found, will be terrible for Buddhism because China will be involved. I wrote you before on the possibility of declaring independence spiritually from the Dalai Lama, and I would like to further explain that idea.

I actually think that all of us have horrible problems with even the 14th Dalai Lama.  Whether or not he is a Buddha emanating (backwards, or in reverse) to pretend he is like a deviputra mara politician who got recognized as Chenrezig I do not know, but at any rate, when the outer form of a Buddha is to show horrible behavior then we are supposed to act normally and tell him he is wrong, is my understanding from Geshe Kelsang’s school.  Shamar Rinpoche, may Karmapa find his rebirth quickly, used to tell the Dalai Lama to stop interfering in the Kagyu school.  Geshe Kelsang is on record saying that the Dalai Lama is lying.  I am American, and feel like trying to follow the politician lama as though he were a spiritual leader of Buddhism is like asking a 10 year old child to please climb back into its mother’s womb to live; obviously, the circumstances no longer permit the former arrangement of years prior, of having lived in that mother’s womb.  Likewise, I feel like trying to force all of humanity to cow-tow to the Dalai Lama and pretend that he is automatically the most superior lama in the history of the universe, is as ridiculous as trying to get a 10 year old to climb back into his mother’s body.  He can’t live there anymore; he won’t fit— he came out of the womb because his time in the womb was done.  In the west, we got over the kings awhile back, and we officially separated religion and state, after having a lot of the sort of crusades and other bloody battles fought on the basis of religion.  Certainly, we are a work in hopefully progress, in the west, and will continue to work on our human rights toward Muslims etc.. However, the first step is the official separation of church and state.  That is the separation we need in the Tibetan community, in the Vajrayana Buddhist community, and in, if you ever go back there, Tibet itself.

As I noticed the issue when among the Tibetans, it seems that the Dalai Lama has done a really amazing job of silencing everyone, of turning everyone against the other, and making everyone be afraid for their own safety to the point that they are afraid to stand up for the rights of each other, lest they lose their precious human life.  However, now that most people are in exile, and now that Buddhism is spreading throughout the west, it seems insane to keep the trappings of the feudal political system of Tibet— it is really horrible for all living beings to be so oppressed by a terrible caste-like system of lamas and serfs.  The Buddha, of course, taught against any sort of caste-system but the Dalai Lama seems to have found a clever way to institute one among his dissenters: the lowest most outcast caste is of course the untouchable Shugden caste of which I am a member.  The next highest is the people who follow Shamar Rinpoche’s Karmapa, Thaye Dorje; I was accepted in many circles as a member of that group, as long as I made some ambiguous statement about still likeing the Dalai Lama, then people were fine with me; however, if I got to know them well, I would hear how Shamar Rinpoche is actually a demon (he’s recognized as the mind emanation of the Buddha Amitaba).  Likewise, we all know that the Dalai Lama, who has rather bad taste in Karmapas, also has difficulty remembering that his root teachers all regarded Dorje Shugden as Buddha Manjushri.  I honestly think Thaye Dorje is Karmapa and Dorje Shugden is Manjushri, by things I was taught and faith granted from the Buddha.  However, of course anyone can follow whomever they want and believe as they do; with that said ,however, please note how if people follow the Dalai Lama that they must, in order to keep samaya, disavow material and spiritual relations with Shugdens; thus they must shun us as though we have done something wrong.

The Dalai Lama (here I am taking a page from Shamar Rinpoche’s and also Geshe Kelsang’s manners of dealing with him) is wrong to teach this sort of hate and segregation; he is wrong to do this just as he was wrong to interfere with the Karmapa recognition.  In Nepal (March 2001), I went to a Shugden monestary with a Kagyu friend from Hannha’s (Lama Ole)’s group; we had tea with a Shugden Geshe, though we did not talk about Shugden AT ALL and I was instructed by my friend not to ask anything about the lama’s practice.  I noticed though, that the Tibetans seemed afraid of being associated with Shugden; I got the impression that they didn’t want to be seen talking to people who might be Shugden while staying at (allegedly) a Shugden run hostel in Kalimpong.  I noticed that one monk, when I returned to the U.S. was worried that I had one of Geshe Kelsang’s books on my shelf, though the other monk (these were monks that worked with Shamar Rinpoche at the BodhiPath) said it wasn’t a problem to have the book on my shelf.  When I questioned the first monk as to the issue, he explained the problem as this Geshe (Kelsang) does the practice that the Dalai Lama doesn’t like.  My reply then was that we follow the Karmapa the Dalai Lama doesn’t like so what do I care what his opinion is on anything (sincerely.)  Of course, the reason he was worried I would imagine, is we already had enough problems, why add more?  What may have been true back then, that both schools worked on our problems separately, seems like something that now is time to evolve.

I see no reason that listening to the Dalai Lama is useful to anyone, knowing what I know about this man.  I also can see that the Shugdens still are banned, but if he should lift it, several will go running back and pretending that he knows what he is talking about again.  Likewise, the Kagyus from Shamar Rinpoche’s side of the school were hoping to get Thaye Dorje Karmapa recognized — in other words that the Dalai Lama recognize both his China boy and the actual Karmapa.  At this point, I cannot see that the Dalai Lama has done anything useful on either front.  Furthermore, even if the Dalai Lama were to say the right words to create some harmony, there is still the problem of the future: when he dies, China has indicated it won’t accept the failure to reincarnate of the Dalai Lamas.  They intend to pick one.  If they don’t pick one, perhaps they use the pretend China Karmapa, or the China Panchen Lama.  If we would declare a separation of religion and state now, before the Dalai Lama dies, that would be helpful.  We need to make clear we declare independence from him and from all political institutions; to take the idea from Shamar Rinpoche’s democracy book: that no one who holds political office also hold religious office and vice versa.  Of course, I don’t know exactly how to word that, but basically the Dalai Lama not be recognized would most likely be really helpful.  If we could get that in writing from him, perhaps one day we could even have a free Tibet, as he is the one that ceded Tibet to China in a completely undemocratic fashion.

Basically, what I would also like is for Kagyus from the Thaye Dorje side and Shugdens to be friends and to support one another; I personally think everyone having to be polite about the Dalai Lama is ridiculous; I am not forced to be this polite about any Christian leader, even if I were Christian, nor about the U.S. President, or anyone else.  Just, worldwide we are supposed to bow and respect this charlatan Dalai Lama 14.  This is ridiculous; he can post a sign on his house that says “no Shugdens,” but I am the one ridiculed if I attend a protest where we say “False Dalai Lama stop lying;” after the Dalai Lama was ridiculed for his misogynistic statement about a female Dalai Lama needing to be attractive, many defenders jumped to his aid, but people were VERY chastising of those of us that posted a meme that calls him “Donald Lama” and suggests he is like Donald Trump.  We are not to verbally “insult him”, (and for the alleged Buddha of compassion he is really sensitive to his own ego) though it is fine if he segregates our people?  It’s 2015; this is really archaic behavior.

Please will all of you come to some conclusion about how to declare spiritual and if you like, political independence from the Dalai Lama.  We do not need China picking one; we do not need to be afraid of having prayers on our shelves—or of chanting them either; we do not need our teachers to have to go in hiding.  I wrote the U.S. Government awhile back and suggested that they request the Dalai Lama end the Shugden ban in writing and either retract his China Karmapa decision or at least recognize Thaye Dorje Karmapa as well.  Those are two fine goals, and if that is possible, fine, but also please get him to put into writing that he wants no more recognitions, or simply declare independence from him spiritually.

In closing, I really love Dorje Shugden, and all the Shugden and Kagyu lamas that I have met, and am hoping we can all be friends.

Sincerely,

Kelly Inman

A Better and More Concrete Set of 4 Points of Dalai Lama Agreement

Dear Lobsang Dorjee, Sonam Lama, Zawa Tulku,  Kundeling Rinpoche, ISC leadership,

 
  I wished to help you with the four points for the Dalai Lama; the old ones did seem a bit outdated to me as well, but the new ones seem too vague (in other words, asking someone who is a human rights criminal parading as a Nobel Peace winner to stop discrimination is open to rather broad interpretation).  I thought some concrete suggestions might be helpful:
 
  1. For the Dalai Lama to ask his followers to treat Shugdens as spiritual and material equals, to befriend us, to allow us to work and access shops, medicine, all professions without having to hide or renounce our practice and otherwise to cease all discrimination and human rights violations toward Shugdens.
 2. That they should in every way attempt to view all living beings with equanimity and to acheive harmony promote the equality of the Shugden Buddha in school, like we do whites and blacks in the U.S.— as part of the curriculum we teach equality is important
 3. That no physical harm, bullying, cyberbulling, intentional shunning etc. of Shugdens or other relgious groups is acceptable. Nor will we accept any excuse that what seems like a beating, theft etc., is really to clear the Shugden person’s karma because we are so brazen to have followed Buddha Shugden instead of the local chieftain of Tibet (Dalai Lama)
  4. That this should be written, posted, and signed into law by the CTA, and witnessed by proper Indian Authorities.
 
  Something more like what I have here would at least be something we can quanifiy; we are the underdog so we need to insure that people don’t say “well, we are shunning your kids because you don’t follow the Dalai Lama because you worship Shugden. This is harmonious because if we all do as the Dalai Lama, the King of Tibet, decrees, all will be in harmony in Buddhism.  If you say to “give religious freedom,” then you are saying he is not perfect so you are disharmonious so it is YOU who is not following the 4 points.”  It needs to be a law and in writing before the DL shows passing or it will stand— and you want to be sure the DL people are allowed to accept us and associate with us materially and physically— “don’t discriminate” is way too vague and the Dalai Lama twists everything— oh well by not letting them work here this isn’t discrimination it is for the good of their karma because those bad Shugdens didn’t want the Dalai Lama to be in charge of all of Buddhism, erm… we mean because they worship a spirit…. you follow?
  The other points, frankly, seemed like someone was trying really hard to let the Dalai Lama off the hook and keep the ban but offer lip-service to the idea that anything had been done.  
  May Karma Shugden please strike me dead if Len Foley is an actual Shugden this life.
  Best regards,
  Kelly Inman