Thursday, 22 July 2010

Accepting & working with the nature of community life

Why are some people having such a hard time in spiritual communities & does this mean spiritual communities are bad or being run badly? The nature of community living in a Spiritual setting no matter what religion will always have certain characteristics

These are:

high standards
mentally ill visitors


there are two factor that bring this about

1) everything becomes important
2) there is no distraction

Everything becomes important when we become spiritual. When we are not spiritual we don't take anything seriously. Life is a game where we just have fun & relax. Nothing we do or say is of any importance as long as everyone is fed & watered. When you turn spiritual how you speak & act suddenly becomes very important. How you think and your goals become important. Even how you dress if you become a monk or a nun. Suddenly everyone is watching you to see how you behave. Death becomes important, the suffering of others becomes important........everything becomes important. So suddenly without noticing we can become very serious or not be relaxing much. All our activities can be very stimulating. Even asleep we can be tossing & turning thinking about how to help people or save the world. In other words we can become quite intense.

Many spiritual communities there is no distracting things like television. Normally with television we take a total time out from our life & just switch off for a few hours becoming completely immersed in stories of other peoples lives. Removing a distraction such as television means that we will continuously focus on our thoughts without any distraction. Which is good if they are good thoughts. But if we get stuck with an unhappy mind or are fretting about something such thoughts could go on endlessly & seem very intense. A non spiritual person wouldn't have examined the situation with such intensity & might have even forgot about it because they were distracted by a movie or another worldly entertainment.


If you have a problem with the way you relate to people it will suddenly multiply as you begin a close bond with a large amount of people. For example if you are judgemental to people you are close to, you might find yourself doing it more than usual. If you have a problem with self esteem and you see 10 people & are thinking that they don't like you it can make a feeling that is normally small much bigger. This is inevitable if you bond with a large amount of people & form a close relationship with them. It can be useful to identify negative minds or habits but it can also be quite intense.


In a place where a large amount of people live it cant work without compromise. You cant simply say I want to make noise, be untidy and this is just how I am learn to deal with it. Nor can you be a perfectionist unable to accept that people are doing human things, pushing people to do things your way and to your standard. There will always be a variety of personalities in a large group. It will only work if people negotiate together so that everyone can find a happy solution. Stand offs where neither will compromise need to be discouraged and resolved via compromise & negotiate by long term community members. if the long term people are teaching the community to do standoffs & not negotiate or have friendly communication there will be many obstacles developing & feuds.

The learning of many things will come very quickly living in a group because you either succeed in cherishing others or you fail. You have to learn good social skills to be successful living with such a large amount of people.


This can be good or it can be done wrong. When one is watching ones thoughts or behaviour all day its possible to become completely cut off from other people. When a non spiritual person is mainly focused on the people around them or has their mind on sensory enjoyments a spiritual person can be very solitary. In Buddhism we say that most negative minds come from thinking about oneself all the time. This can manifest in another way once one starts working on oneself. Suddenly taking every negative thought very seriously one can intensively enter a very private world of 'its just me & my mind'. With no distraction it can seem our personal problems are there all the time and that we are focusing on them more & more. If we successfully transform into focusing on positive contemplations this is great. But some people in any given spiritual community will inevitably end up focusing on problems & things they are unhappy about & be quite solitary in this as they fail to overcome or resolve these feelings.

High standards

pressuring oneself to be perfect & feeling we have to do everything right or else it will affect peoples faith especially as monks and nuns

Mentally ill visitors
When people get mental illness they immediately look for therapy counselling etc. Even people who would never consider Buddhism and are anti religion suddenly want to run to places such as Buddhist classes with almost a desperation if they have a breakdown. My own relative hated all religion and never came to the centre in the whole 10 years I have been a Kadampa. Suddenly they had a breakdown and I visited them in a mental health ward. They were barely able to communicate and were unrecognisable but absolutely desperate to goto the Buddhist centre and become Buddhist. Then when their mental health was restored once again they returned to having no interest in Buddhism. This experience shows to me why Buddhist centres can have many problems. Imagine if my relative had turned up in a state of hysteria, speaking incomprehensibly.

I myself have just been to my local centre. There is a person who attends and everyone tries to be compassionate and help them. Today I was told by this man that I am a bodhisattva with miracle powers even though I hide it. He told me that I and other emanations refuse to help him and cure his illness, that I choose to leave him in a suffering state. He wanted to know why I didnt use my miracle powers. He interrogated me for 10 minutes like this saying why why. He said if I dont do my job he should go write a letter on the internet saying how the Kadampa tradition is bad and the people are uncaring. After 10 minutes of this I started to get upset. I am human after all. When he saw I was unhappy then he really started on how Im a fake Bodhisattva and not being proffessional ie not doing my job. It was as if the next level would be punching people and saying transform that! Or that they are unproffessional if they dont smile and be patient.

When people know its your role to practice patience, compassion etc they can start being absolutely horrible to you, just to see you struggle, curious how you will respond, testing you to see if you really are a nice person or 'one of the fakes'.
People complain that if they go around attacking or belittling someone verbally they are asked to leave the centre. But this is the situation of many residents. They live at a centre for many years and people are coming in and doing things like this. Probing them and trying to push their buttons. Some people are subject to constant judgement and abuse such as admin directors. Someone takes on one of the most difficult jobs to do and is treated with nothing but contempt. We need to ask ourselves, if I took on one of the most difficult jobs and whilst doing it people looked at me with loathing, how would I feel? If I tried to better myself as a person and I got people randomly coming up to me trying to prove I am a fake how would I feel?

Overcoming the obstacles

Stopping the blame game

We can see that most of these factors will necessarily exist wherever there are monasteries. Yet we often claim these are obstacles of our own spiritual tradition claiming if our tradition was run differently these things wouldn't happen. And these factors (intensity/seriousness/perfectionism etc) led people to abandon religion before we were even born. So how can we say the people to blame are the people who are alive today.


Relaxation, try and don't worry...these ring any bells? This is Buddhas advice & Buddha is the Dharma protector. The Buddhas are well aware of these problems we have.
Many people are very intense about spiritual practice & then create so many obstacles that they end up giving up. It is far better to practice at a mediocre standard for ones whole life because then observers will not see an endless stream of people giving up or falling flat on their faces. Its more inspiring to see someone consistently enjoying themself for their whole life than to see them setting a perfect example & then falling apart, In summary the relaxed person who thinks everything is not important will often prove more consistent & reliable. Such of person will decide to not put immense pressure on themselves & think- what I say think & do is not a big deal. What is a big deal is that I am relaxed & enjoying & having fun. If the teachers tea is lukewarm its not the end of the world. The important thing is I'm here doing my bit & if its not a big enough bit then tough. I'm relaxing & not going to be overly intense.
Many people have cared for the teacher very well before letting them down. These people thought that serving tea in a special cup and many other trivial things were very important. In reality this can lead to a downfall because having your head full of trivial things claiming they are important can make you forget the big things which do matter such as representing Buddhism well, which is certainly more important to Buddhas than what type of teacup they are offered.
Distraction is not always negative. In Buddhism we learn to turn our mind to wood or to another object. If one is fretting over something & getting a very negative mind, it is not taking refuge in worldly objects if one puts their mind elsewhere. You don't have to keep thinking about the situation till you have solved it. You can put down the Rubiks cube & try again later. So why not go out with friends & relax have a fun time & then come back feeling refreshed from time to time.

So truly who has made the morally right choice. The person who sits in their room grinding endlessly to overcome a negative mind and getting themselves in a right state. Or the person who goes for a bag of chips downtown & just forgets about the whole thing? The opponents of delusion take many years to cultivate. You do a bit of work each day to increase your understanding. So if whilst you are waiting for understandings to grow you stave off a delusion with a distraction or by just forgetting about it this is not a big deal. Stop taking it so seriously, relax! Maybe if those people who left had such an approach they would still be here & developing understanding of Dharma year by year. But many of them were so determined to be perfect that they only practiced Dharma for a few years. Now their whole life revolves around TV, newspapers, money and sex etc. How can eating a bag of chips or going to the cinema be negative if it is removing your mind from an incorrect way of thinking that is damaging or making you tense.

Good relationships & feeling able to ask for support

Now this we have seen what a state someone can get in & pretend that they are OK because they believe its very important to appear perfect we can see community people would function better as friends where you can tell them your not perfect. In Dharma centres communication needs to be encouraged & supported. Older residents need to be heard as they have a wealth of experience. If there is a problem in a community everyone needs to be able to offer their opinion & ideas how to solve it. If in a community the long term people are being pushed to keep silent & not express an opinion then that shows a big obstacle has developed. As soon as this is seen action needs to be taken because these communities are something that IS important and do need to be take seriously, between bags of chips of course.

Controlling- excessive or insufficient


We all admire the historical stories of Teacher disciple relationships. Then we come into Buddhism and are told that it is a big part of the path. We have no experience of this and its not a popular culture in our countries. Therefore we have very few people to talk to to compare notes. When things go wrong we are confused and start to wonder who is to blame?

We need to remember our lineage and where these trainings have come from. How were they practiced in the past. People recoil in terror when they hear the words- unquestioning obedience and trust- but our lineage Gurus did this. It doesnt work for modern people because we have no stamina and our teacher has no way of showing us clearly that he is fully qualified- therefore the students hold back and do not trust 100%. In history there was a great lineage of competitions and debates. Who was the most qualified would be established in a battle of wills almost. Budha Shakyamuni competed with other gurus in displays of miracle powers. Milarepa mocked those he met dissecting their beliefs with a song before exhorting them to follow correct paths. In many stories the teacher and disciple do a form of battle almost and when the teacher proves far superior the disciple requests instructions.

This is the real dilemma of the modern western world. How to establish who we can trust? Our teacher cannot display miracle powers or even claim to have good qualities. One answer could be the following. Milarepa showed his attainment not with beams of light from his body like the sun against fireflies like Buddha Shakyamuni. He showed that he could do things that other people couldnt. He could survive the elements and live without food. And he could express the correct meanings with more clarity and lucidity than other teachers. The less realised you are the slower you will express yourself because you will be formulating generic images first. Milarepas songs arose instantly.

Therefore we can decide who to trust by checking who can do what modern people always fail to do - live without fame, material possessions, sensory cravings. And who is expressing the holy Dharma clearly and confidently. Who is not afraid of losing their reputation and puts doing the right thing first, even if threatened with punishment or reprisals. Someone who is free of worldly concerns and worldly desires is the main evidence we can find. Another evidence is that their own root Guru displayed the same and that they attribute everything to their own teacher, not accepting any praise for themself but instead offering it. We cannot get incontravertible evidence in these modern times all we can get are strong signs. One idea for a test we could ask is this. If their own Guru came back from the grave in their old body would this teacher instantly offer all their disciples to him and cease to teach? Who is working to translate instructions Buddhas 84000 teachings into English and who is relaxing and socialising? Which is correct?
If Marpa and Rinchen Zangpo (who translated during Atishas life) had spent their life focusing on socialising where would we be today? Surely anyone who focuses mainly on social pastimes rather than translating if they know the two languages has a desire for companions and friends?

Anyway here is the example of battles of wills similar to ancient Buddhism where people enjoyed seeing who had the greater skill and who was right. if the links stop working try searching the titles. kung fu pandas cravings abated by his master. A perfect example of teacher and disciple, the control issue and resisting it establishing who is of greater skill - our lineage has similar. There are no tests of skill or level of attainment nowadays

Read the story of Milarepa training, Naropas training and then please offer comment

Internal rules

Whether these are of benefit or become an obstacle remains to be seen. It is important that they are not misinterpreted & then the incorrect rules forcefully applied with total inflexibility. If anyone would like to comment on any specific internal rules here is the place to do so. The internal rules are written here:

Internal rules of the New Kadampa Tradition

One internal rule I believe needs to be understood as thus. The new temples development project is simply a place for surplus funds to go. If we do not have surplus funds why put our centres under a great strain that usually ends up being felt by the residents to race the project along. Is this pressurised rush Geshe-las intention or is it an idea formulated by someone else. Surely the building of temples is something we do with all the EXTRA funds we have, not bleeding every coin until people feel that the entire centre life revolves around fundraising to the point where the education program is being compromised whereas the fundraising activities are never compromised? If people are missing study classes to engage in fundraising surely something is wrong at that point.

The internal rules put a great emphasis on groups of administrators meeting together. Whereas before the decisions were being made by people who emphasised the spiritual elements, now they are being made principally by people who are not primarily engaged in community prayers and study. Most sponsored people are incredibly busy and are not able to spend long periods contemplating what would be the most spiritually appropriate thing to do. Previously the resident teacher was the principal source of ideas and their mind was mainly on spiritual emphasis within the community. So there is a clear situation where decisions could be more rushed, not thought through, and focused on attaining primarily administrative objectives. Obvious examples could be an increase in the focus on money and work rather than study & prayer.

These are things that could happen. I am not an administrator. I am simply saying my own faults and what extremes I myself could go to.

Increasing - the Bucket Analogy


In general fundraising helps an organisation grow & flourish. But in certain circumstances the emphasis on fundraising can become too big. This is an obstacle because then people say 'its all about money' or 'they only want me for my money'.

Money comes from residents living in centres. Although now alternative sources are being tested such as offering B&B as well as hotels & cafes, these are nonetheless still an income source solely from residents. This is because these facilities are run by residents of Dharma centres. Therefore at all points increasing can only come with residents.

Understanding this, if one studies Buddhas teachings, one sees that if you assemble the causes the effect will come. If the effect is not coming it is because you haven't assembled the correct causes. What are the causes that are being forgotten?

The cause of the amount of residents increasing, is that the quality of life of a resident is very good, they are fulfilled & achieving their goals. If the residents are neglected or unhappy they will not stay & the community will not increase and may start decreasing. So someone who is genuinely interested in successful fundraising & healthy financial position of the communities will have welfare & well being of long term devotees as a top priority. If the residents were cared for and attended to with the same dedication as the visitors are, most of the community obstacles would disappear. Communities would be larger and there would be a greater pool of volunteers to call upon for assistance.

Therefore from my own perspective I have concluded that the well being & happiness of residents of a Dharma community must be the number one priority. A person must be cared for from the moment they decide to give their time & life to the causes of Buddhism until their life is over. Such a person is human & will have good and bad periods in their life. Its unreasonable to demand (for example) perfection, plus 35 hours work a week and attendance of an 8 hour a week study program until death, with no flexibility at all. That is slavery & residential life will not be appealing nor will many people do it for long for the simple fact that it is not enjoyable. Increasing the quality of experience of community life is crucial because it is the fundamental source of volunteers, funds, teachers and successful role models for the future. If people find community life a gruelling slog then ultimately there will be few long term experienced people. What is the point of putting so much energy & work into training someone if they are just going to end up leaving because they are exhausted & unhappy. It is like pouring water into a bucket with a hole in. Increasing can only happen if resources are not being needlessly lost. The holes need to be repaired & the bucket cared for.

Geshe-la teaches over & over that everything comes from living beings. Food, clothes, houses etc. If living beings are not cared for nothing will increase. The visitors are very well cared for. Now is the time to put equal effort into caring for residents

Saturday, 10 July 2010

Author of this blog

Why am I doing this?

The answer is I don't want to do this it took me a long time to conclude this is the only way. But morale in the centres is low & I'm not going to sit back & watch centres be damaged & then close. How would I be able to live with myself if I carried on doing nothing & then they closed. If the admins were dealing with these issues then I could close this website & would love nothing more. It seems saying something is potentially damaging but has saying nothing worked? You leave it & you know it will get worse. You wait & it does. I am not going to accept the ultimate result which will be a claim at some point over the next 15 years that community Dharma centres don't work for modern western people. When we could have beautiful Dharma communities if the admins had just listened.

I hate writing this website but I know that if I don't I will be looking in ten years time thinking why didn't I say something. This situation can be changed & that must happen. The tradition and the communities must be successful.

Wrath towards the leaders and administration

I am a regular Dorje Shugden practitioner & have been a loyal follower of Kadampa Buddhism for over a decade. Kadampa Buddhism is a pure lineage of teachings from the 10th century. They are not modern teachings. When I think about the work that has been done to bring these teachings to modern Britain I can say I feel a great sense of responsibility for these teachings being a success in the modern world.
The King Yeshe O for example who died as did many to ensure that there was Dharma for his people for generations to come. Then the 1000s of people who worked translating, studying, meditating. It is amazing that the Dharma got here. Now all we have to do is preserve it & care for it & represent it well so that people come to respect it.

I was doing my Shugden practice today & I felt such a strong feeling to speak out and tell some people off. As Shugden practitioners it is our responsibility that if we see something that would obstruct the success of Dharma or is creating a problem that can be solved we should act to do so.

Yeshe O did not die so that we can be corrupt monks & nuns destroying the reputation of the Sangha. We work to repair the reputation of Buddhism & yet because we carry on with our childish ways stubbornly we make new damage over & over again. Why on earth when the future of Buddhism is so important are we not sitting down as a group and trying to understand why 1000s of normal people who have decided to dedicate themselves to our centres, after being residents become so upset & frustrated with the administration?

If the main centres representing Kadampa Buddhism are churning out year after year people who quite frankly feel offended & shocked by what they have seen then as Shantideva put it and Chandrakirti there is a conflict with the worldly. These communities as they are being run are not working for people. We need to speak out! These communities can be changed so they do work for people. In fact it would be very easy to do.

The 1st step is to admit that there is a problem.
The 2nd step is to instigate a solution

We don't have to die like Yeshe O did all we need is to realise that we are affecting the future of Buddhism with our worldly behaviour. The constant invasion of peoples privacy and attempts to enforce increased voluntary work, from turfing people out of their rooms, taking their belongings, removing their telephone lines etc to making very personal remarks about what people should & shouldn't do. The constant character assassination of people whether it be a group of admins sitting down with one resident to tell them they are not doing enough voluntary jobs & need to stop being so self cherishing or simply having meetings without the person present & discussing how they are a bad practitioner who they need to try new strategies with to control & manipulate them. The constant tease of secrecy - people being asked to leave & then the other residents not being told why- the whisperings of how somebody is a bad resident and the feelings of horror those people feel when they realise that admins are talking about them behind their back undermining their reputation.

This will never stop until the admins sort themselves out. If you throw out 1000 people saying they are all deluded & then bring a completely new set of people the new people will soon be making exactly the same complaints. Why is this? Its because the administrative peoples behaviour is offensive to the everyday man on the street. The Bodhissattva vow is to act in accordance with peoples disposition & a countries customs - not to be offensive.

Who would choose to live in a place where it is dictated every moment of the day when & where you are controlling you, prying, and spying, monitoring you, having meetings about you when you aren't doing everything right.
Who would choose to live in a place where your landlord along with a few other admins write down a list of activities for you to do & organises your daily schedule without even consulting you.
Who would choose to live in a place where admins have meetings about you without you even being there.
Who would choose to live in a place where good people are suddenly booted out & its all a big secret why & nobody is allowed to know why. In normal society people would talk about it. It is far worse not knowing why someone has been booted out believe me because you start imagining all sorts of things. If you were just told what they did you'd probably be relieved & glad that they were booted out. But no we are left hanging & confused & not allowed to speak or even ask what is going on.

How do you think Shantideva or Geshe Ben Gungyal would have got on in one of our centres? He would have been told hes a trouble maker & asked to leave. The admins would have sat discussing how to make him do voluntary work & attend classes then if he wanted to do his practice in his room he would have been brought to disciplinary meetings & told he needs to stop being so selfish. He would have been forced to 'voluntarily' serve cappuchinos and listen to cheesy pop music.

People move into centres & they are enjoying it. They take part in work, study & prayer. Then suddenly an administrative leader makes a joke to their face one day in front of people about how selfish they are or lazy. This person is shocked and from that day is the start of a downward spiral I have seen happen again & again. Why take a pot shot at a lovely kind & good spirited person like that? A person who has come in good faith thinking that they are amongst good people, a person full of faith & admiration for the admins. Its part of living in a centre to be subject to this sort of character assassination & mistreatment. We all put up with it because we cherish Dharma & we are waiting as residents for these behaviours to reduce & for the residents to start to be treated with respect. Its not self cherishing to respect others, respecting others is the very foundation for successful Buddhism. If the admins show the opposite then people learn from them that its OK undermine people, do things that in normal society are considered outrageously rude, humiliating, embarrassing and even inhumane. Continuing this will destroy everything that people like Yeshe O worked for. How can we accept that? How can we misrepresent Dharma destroying peoples faith in the Sangha & think its no big deal. If something is harming such a beautiful chance it has to be stopped. People have to speak out and ask those misrepresenting to stop doing this.

Geshes las book say all the solutions from how to be polite & respect others to how to not offend conventional society. Treating everyone as an equal. Saying thank you. Saying "if its no trouble". Not admiring miracles but admiring devoted people. How to be thoughtful & considerate. Not gossiping. Not belittling people. What makes a community fail or succeed. The value of listening & considering others feelings. The kindness of others. There is an endless undermining of the kindness of others. People who have given everything all their time, even their life being told that they are bad for not doing centre cherishing. How can it be said they are not doing centre cherishing. What do you think they are doing when they are cleaning, cooking, gardening, studying, attending pujas and have given up all other activities only to be told they need to do more so a scheme to 'cherish the centre' has been added. Not by Geshela. Geshela said it was important to cherish the centre & and that acts of voluntary work are wonderful. THEN the admins changed that to saying that the acts that people are doing are NOT wonderful but are insufficient, that people are lazy & selfish. Is that cherishing the centre? Verbally whipping people & saying that they are not doing centre cherishing. They ARE doing it & have been doing it before these new rotas were ever devised. Geshela was in fact pointing this out & how precious & important these peoples activities are.

The centres have greatly improved over the last 10 years & I wish I could accept the new improved model. The problem I have is that for the majority population the current model wont work & they will come away in huge numbers saying negative things. THAT MUST NOT HAPPEN

Now huge numbers of people are starting to come to centres with these cafes & hotels. If this is not sorted out they too will become a majority who are hiding how they feel. Except this time it will be 10,000 or more people hiding frustration. When those people eventually all start chiming about these problems it will be much bigger voice. And it will be loud enough that wider society will hear it. So why not sort this now whilst most people haven't been subjected to this and don't know these problems exist.

So this is my prayer. For the sake of Yeshe O and all those who died travelling 1000s of years ago to bring these teachings from India to Tibet, those who spend years translating from Sanskrit to Tibetan, those who gave every penny they had to creating good reputable instructions like Marpa did, those who revived the teaching over & over when they had degenerated. Those who sat on thrones begging people to practice the holy Dharma & care for it like a precious jewel year after year century after century. And all those people who haven't yet met NKT who's destiny we can change to a good experience. Let us pray that the admins sit down & figure out how to stop this rude, intrusive & faith destroying behaviour.

Wrath to critiques of the tradition & whining

We just need a community where we can practice.... we then read of all the injustices that people have been subjected to. Whats is the conclusion? Is any of it valid or is it simply nature talking its course..the modern symptom of how people find it hard to live together even with one person let alone 20-100 people
In Tibet the monasteries had 10,000+ monks yet we cannot even hold together 2 people how can we create monasteries if we have such a low degree of stamina for the company of others as well as such a low level of ability to develop & maintain a good relationship with one person.. In modern society greed takes precedent over compromise, basic etiquette & consideration are at an all time low as the ego soars off into a hedonistic bubble oblivious to the people around it. Also we have no idea of how to do things with wisdom. So we write to an agony aunt or watch a chat show trying to understand relationships and how to make them work. Why do we have no clue? Because the people who dealt with these same issues century after century and built a great wealth of experience never got to pass on their knowledge to the current generation. Their advice was ignored & they died. Now there is no one to ask why the world is this way and how to make good relations within a group or between two people as well as how to mend them. No we didn't like them asking us to be polite & civil & behave well so we chose to see the elders of our communities as unmodernisable irrelevant dinosaurs. Now we enjoy the modern world we have created where the newspapers are nothing but rude & nasty character assassination soap operas and we cant even provide a child with a mum & dad. We cry if our economy has a few problems so we cant jet off to sunny Spain. We are so weak & spoilt. If 10,000 of us lived together it would be a disaster. Isn't it any wonder we all have to live in separate houses so we avoid all the problems of human interactions that would come if we shared houses.
And with the internet now & people becoming increasingly isolated our social skills will degenerate even more. We are learning the crude way of talking nastily to each other in chatrooms & applying it offline and the children don't even go out to play anymore with friends. They sit alone in front of their computer all evening & weekend.
So when this next generation who have been raised in cyberspace try to live in a Dharma centre will it be a harmonious community? If there is a small disagreement that people 100s of years ago would have ironed out in an instant will it escalate & escalate as people show more lack of understanding of how to resolve/heal a difficult social situation? I think so.................
In a traditional monastery like Nalanda there was none of the comforts we have. No nice lie in till 9am they would have been up at 6am or even 4am. As a group they would have all attended the entire schedule of pray study mediation and worked between sessions. How much say do you think they would have had over personal freedom. They would have lived in tiny rooms or a dormitory with little or no privacy. Their entire days schedule organised for them & set out. Anything not correctly done would have brought sharp words from senior monks. Tellings off would have been frequent.
Compared to a traditional monastery our freedoms are astounding. We can date & get married as lay people & live within the community. We have as much privacy as we want in our own comfortable accommodations. We are served food of a quality that not even the Kings of Tibet got let alone the abbot of a monastery. We can sit around most evenings chatting and we rarely if ever get told off for anything. One can miss 75% of prayer sessions without any scolding. All we commit to is 10 hours work a week & attending 1 class. People say cuss works, discuss music, television etc and it is all accepted because we are too weak to handle any austerity. If we were told off even once we would be so bruised we might even move out we are so fragile.
We complain saying the community is controlling and that this causes psychological damage. Then years later we are still lingering around warning people of the way someone attempted to control us & take away our freedoms or criticised us as well as how dangerously damaging this is...perhaps if children all started complaining they were damaged by their parents controlling then parenting would become ridiculed, taken apart piece by piece & ultimately abandoned as a damaging exercise . Oh wait this is already happening!
Our society has a huge problem with discipline & control. Yet we all say we admire Tibetans. Why do we admire a culture that is so austere and where good behaviour is insisted upon with sharp words and there is no freedom to 'be oneself'. Then we dissect this very lifestyle we claim to admire after trying it for a short period claiming it to be fanatical, manipulative, controlling, oppressive and mentally damaging. Yet we still would claim to respect Tibetans after we have destroyed all credibility for their way of life.
If we spend years claiming that the things that are taught in traditional Buddhist texts and the behaviours of ancient monastics are the modern definition of cultish what are we doing?
Quite simply we are saying that we want to edit the traditional instructions just as we edited the parenting techniques of our forefathers. Those who claim that to see a teacher as an emanation of a deity is creating a cult which will be psychologically damaging, are in effect saying to the general not view the teacher as a Buddha. This is asking people not to practice Buddhism & saying that all Buddhists who do this are subject to manipulation. What I am saying is NKT critiques are undermining the entire Buddhist path. They need to state clearly a case that addresses the core of the problem without undermining the traditional way of life. The controlling teachers, the discipline, these are traditional and if western people cannot handle this its a bigger problem. Because western people will conclude that any religion that teaches you to see a human as a deity with clairvoyance or where you prostrate before a human is a cult. They will also conclude that if you are subject to any monastic regime you are in a cult, a controlling group that takes away your freedoms & subjects you to austerities without you having the freedom to opt out of community life whilst staying in the monastery. So my question is are monasteries actually plausible in these modern times?

How do we appear to cafe customers & hoteliers?

World peace cafes are supposed to be helping, but if their is disharmony in a centre then non Buddhists will come to know of it & it will be embarrassing for Buddhism & the tradition. When people who worked at cafes suddenly vanish (given a months notice to leave the centre for a small transgression - small in the eyes of worldly people certainly) the regulars will ask why, where have they gone? At this point the cafe staff will have to tell a lie or divert the conversation. If someone is a regular at the cafe and this keeps happening they will see through it. Worldly people call a spade a spade. Therefore its important to make the centres harmonious & happy. This disharmony has to stop now because once the general public latch on they wont keep a dignified silence in order to protect the reputation of the tradition like we do.

The answer isn't to tell residents to be quiet & hide these things but to actually remove this disharmony from the centres. You cannot remove disharmony by kicking people out either because new people then come & develop the same grievances because they are treated the same way as the previous ones & generate the same reaction.

Having a think tank to tackle issues such as this needs to be a priority within the organisation. Admin needs to look at cases of disgruntled former residents & find out what is at the heart of these repeating patterns & if anything can be done to reduce the amount this is happening. I believe any group of people living together need a way to communicate & facilitate fizzling out these feuds by negotiation & communication rather than being left to fester in their rooms not being able to talk to anyone. Communication is so important in families, friendships & people living together. The fact that I cannot share an idea such as this for example shows the fear of communication that exists in community residents and long term visitors. Yet an idea such this could be the start of things becoming so happy & harmonious.

Having been an administrative team member myself & attended various meetings I noticed a significant avoidance at admin meetings to talk about anything 'negative' and that being surrounded by senior Buddhists it would be easy to just spend whole meetings focusing on the things that are going well. Ie if you made a comment about how well the Dharma is spreading you would induce bliss and you just didn't want to say about any obstacles or anything that is going wrong as you feel like you are going to deflate everyone & the atmosphere. But removing obstacles is what we will do when we are a Buddha. We will become just like Dorje Shugden. It is a positive activity & very important. It means that our centres are like a well functioning vehicle rather than a car that has breakages that we choose not to fix. Why endure the hardships of a gearbox that is being difficult & never fixing it when one can simply with a few tweaks make a great future for your driving.

Does all this matter?

What does it mean to be a follower of Dorje Shugden?
Does it mean we do a puja once a day and then Dorje Shugden does the rest? Who is it who creates adverse & conducive conditions for Dharma practice?
My own understanding is that Dorje Shugden is not one person. Dorje Shugden is a person who has attained Buddhahood & works to protect the tradition of Je Tsongkhapa. Therefore many people can be protecting the tradition just as many people can be damaging it. The people around us are the retinue of Dulzin. Some have a deep understanding of the four types of action, how to be skilled and a deep passion for the tradition & teachings. For others it is more intellectual and a struggle but they too work with great devotion. Attaining the state of a Dharma Protector is a gradual process. You slowly become more & more like Dorje Shugden until one day you are him. How do you do this? By developing a wish to protect the tradition and then working to create favourable conditions.

As we are working we might create conditions that are not so good. Is Dorje Shugden at this moment going to jump out of the sky & say hey you over there? No he isnt. What will happen is various people will express in various ways that they are uncomfortable & its not working for them. How are we ever going to become Dorje Shugden if our ears are closed and we think others words & experiences have no value.

We might think this is not a big deal but we need to realise that for 1000s of years countless people have worked to bringing these teachings to us. If a few modifications of a few admin techniques will ensure that the Dharma is a success why on earth are we willing to risk the failure of the Dharma communities and their closure in order to hold on to a few opinions stubbornly? What is more important? The viewpoint of an admin who might even have given up Dharma & be leading a worldly life in 10 years time? Or protecting the reputation of the centres as caring compassionate and the reputation of the Sangha? How can the view of 2 or 3 human beings lead to 100 people passing through a centre & all having the same frustration that the centre isn't run well. Why not just listen to feedback & run it well??

How and when to write a letter to a student

In most cases admins are very busy and simply want to accomplish that the letter results in the person stopping breaking a centre rule. This might be not smoking on the centre grounds, making noise so that other people cant meditate or wearing skimpy clothing when it is a community of monks & nuns practicing celibacy.

There are 2 scenarios:

1) the admin is asking someone to stop breaking a centre rule
2) the admin is being asked to deal with a dispute between two people

If you are results orientated before you write the letter you have to work on what words will accomplish the reaction out of the student that you are seeking. The reaction you are seeking is positive, supportive, sympathetic and cooperative. Not rebellious, weepy, angry, defensive. Its easy after working all day and receiving criticism to just type out a quick 'keep the rules or else', print and send. But this is not saving you energy in reality. Because when they generate the wrong response then you will have all that additional aggro to deal with.
If you are an admin therefore its worth putting some time and thought into good letterwriting and communication skills as it will pay off over the years that you are doing the job and lead to your community becoming very harmonious and successful.

Since admins are busy let us write some such letters here as samples. Perhaps the letters will be so well written and versatile that they can be copied/pasted and used.

I was also planning to write more detailed guide to good letter writing at some point. Ideas are welcome.

How to write a letter to an admin

If when you write a letter to an admin it comes across as a personal attack upon the centre or themselves it will not produce the results you are looking for. Although you might have no such intention what you have written could nevertheless come across that way because of the wording.

As a human being it is difficult to take criticism. The worldly reaction is that it makes us raw, sensitive, paranoid, defensive and we retreat into a little shell when we sit trying to reassure ourselves that our critique is wrong, calling upon our friends to reassure us that our 'attacker' doest know what they are talking about, is irrational and should be ignored or even shunned.

This is our basic human reaction and it not a crime. But in Buddhist philosophy it is considered a deluded reaction. Nevertheless people will revert to it if they have a lot of work on and are regularly being criticised. This is the position of the person you are writing to. If they have a certain way of doing things that is leading to widespread criticism of their administrative techniques then it is a bad situation for them because they will be suffering a regular & consistent character assassination. Therefore to write a letter saying you have offended me & are doing a bad job wont break this cycle of events.

If we are compassionate Mahayanists we will write a letter saying that they as an admin are needlessly suffering and that we appreciate that they are trying to do a very difficult job. Then we can explain that although its hard to do the job perfectly & keep everybody happy one or two things we feel are leading to misunderstandings friction & if they try method 'b' (with you describing it) then the upset people might stop misunderstanding & getting upset. Then people will be more harmonious with the admins & your job as an admin will become much more comfortable & pleasant ...which is of course a good result.

Of course this article is open to debate & will be modified in accordance with feedback given. If you have written any examples of a good letter I would be happy to publish them as an open letter on the condition that they follow the terms described in the comments feature. These are that the letter is:

-General IE not going into details that give names of places or people
-Constructive with a plausible solution presented that would not cause offence.

The main point is if you manage to avoid anger & write good letters repeatedly then the obstacle is overcome. But the obstacle will not be overcome if you write a letter which is insulting, impractical, dictatorial (dishing out orders), juggling philosophy points, talking in riddles or poems, judgemental, long winded, deconstructive, destructive, endlessly negative or all about you & how emotional you are.