A NKT Review – A Psychological Report on the New Kadampa Tradition: Dr Michelle Haslam

NKT review – the importance of reviews

Despite the New Kadampa Tradition (NKT) being recognised by many as a harmful cult it’s still functioning, as is Rigpa and Shambala, and no doubt they will continue to do so, just as Scientology is still drawing people in to what most people recognise as a harmful cult. The continuance of these cults makes it vital that we write reviews about them and place them where they can be found by people searching for such terms as ‘Rigpa review’, ‘Shambala Review, ‘NKT review’ and so on. People who are not aware of the abuse issues with these cults, may at least try to find reviews of the service they’re considering signing up for, hence my repetition of the term NKT review, and my providing a download of Dr Michelle Haslam’s psychological report on the New Kadampa Tradition. It’s basically an in-depth review.

Some of you might seen Michelle Haslam on her You Tube channel Thriving After Leaving the New Kadampa Tradition, she’s recently released a report on the psychological effects of the NKT group. In it she evaluates her experiences in the cult, explains the psychological effects of certain beliefs, and questions the beliefs themselves.

Familiar patterns in different sanghas

I examine the same sorts of topics in my soon-to-be-released book Fallout: Recovering from Abuse in Tibetan Buddhism – such things as complex post traumatic stress disorder, narcissistic abuse syndrome, codependency and psychological control mechanisms. But though this report is specific to the NKT and my book is about Rigpa, you’ll see many parallels in the report with Rigpa, Shambala and other Tibetan Buddhist groups with abusive or narcissistic people at their head.

The patterns are familiar as are the problematic beliefs shared by those who insist on obedience, non-criticism, secrecy around the ‘inner circle’, and a fanatical insistence that whatever the guru does is ‘all good’.

Please share widely and encourage potential Tibetan Buddhism students to arm themselves with this kind of information. We need to see through the methods of manipulation and control that create spiritual abuse and facilitate emotional, physical and sexual abuse.

Can we salvage anything from our time in Tibetan Buddhism?

While we’re on the topic of psychological perspectives, the question of how much we value and retain (if anything) from our time in Tibetan Buddhism is an important one, and one that will probably take some time to evaluate. Everyone’s experience will be different according to what they brought with them to TB in the way of habitual patterns, what and how they were taught, and how they interpreted what they were taught.

It’s very tempting to just throw out the whole lot, especially if you were taught things that were psychologically damaging or experienced the most extreme forms of spiritual abuse, but if we do that, we run the risk of going to the other extreme – from complete infatuation with the religion to a complete rejection of all its teachings, the good along with the bad.

However with some evaluation, further education or discussion (to check our understanding and how well we were taught) and perhaps an adjustment of our understanding of how to apply the principles of meditation and the Buddhist view of the world, we can sift the benefit from the harm so that we can keep the beneficial skills we’ve learned (if there were any) and throw out the rest.

Psychotherapy and meditation

For some people, the right thing to do – at least at this point in time for them – is to throw it all out. So don’t feel that you ‘should’ find something useful in your time in TB, even so, it still might be helpful to be open to the possibility that you could salvage something. Some may need to immerse themselves in psychotherapy for a time, but I don’t think we need to look at it as an ‘either/or’ choice between the contemplative traditions and psychotherapy. I think they can be used along side each other to create a path even more useful for personal and spiritual development than either of them can offer alone.

But we would need teachers with far greater qualifications than those held by most Tibetan Buddhist teachers. They would need to have respect for psychotherapy and an educational dialogue with psychotherapists , at least to the point where they knew the kinds of issues that can arise and when to refer students to a psychotherapist (but hopefully not someone who is indoctrinated by the same cult as the person making the referral!)

This vlog goes into this idea a bit more.

Do you feel that you benefited from your time in your TB sangha? Do you have any skills or understandings that you can use to your benefit today?

Featured image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay


If you’d like a more private place to chat about your ongoing spiritual path after you’ve left an abusive community, you can join the Beyond the Temple Facebook group. This group is for people who don’t want to talk about abuse, but want to keep in touch and share their discoveries, inspiration and challenges as they move on with their lives.

If you want to talk about abuse, then Rigpa or ex-Rigpa students can join the secret What Now? groupApply via the contact form here, telling us about yourself and why you want to join the group. 

Students from other Vajrayana communities who need somewhere where they can talk about abuse and find survivor support can join the Survivors of Vajrayana Abuse and their Allies group.  

Note that you will not be added to these groups if you don’t answer the questions.

The Facebook page and You Tube Channel associated with this blog are called Living in Peace and Clarity. Click the relevant link on the side bar to ‘Like’ and ‘Subscribe’.

2 Replies to “A NKT Review – A Psychological Report on the New Kadampa Tradition: Dr Michelle Haslam”

  1. Thanks so much for sharing, matches with my experience. How brave as we know NKT tries to attack and malign critics. But as more speak out they will realize the futility of this. Deluded people.

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