Kadampa Buddhism, which is the path of Buddhism practised and taught at the Duldzin Buddhist Centre where I take meditation classes, is a special tradition of Mahayana Buddhism. Kadampa Buddhism was founded by Atisha (982-1054 CE), an Indian Buddhist Master largely responsible for the reintroduction of Buddhism into Tibet in the eleventh century.
‘Ka’ refers to all Buddha’s Sutra and Tantra teachings, and ‘dam’ refers to Atisha’s special instructions called the “Stages of the Path” or Lamrim in Tibetan.
Kadampa Buddhists integrate their knowledge of all Buddha’s teachings into their everyday lives. The New Kadampa Tradition – International Kadampa Buddhist Union is an international association of Mahayana Buddhist study and meditation centres that follow the Kadampa Buddhist tradition founded by Venerable Geshe Kelsang Gyatso. Even though Kadampa Buddhism has its roots in Mahayana Buddhism it is not Tibetan Buddhism. It is and independent Buddhist tradition the New Kadampa Tradition has become the International Kadampa Buddhist Union, which is legally registered under English law.
The main reason why the New Kadampa Tradition has chosen to become legally registered as an independent Buddhist tradition is because it was recognized that in Tibetan Buddhism there are so many political problems. These problems are due to the mixing of Dharma and politics, with higher Lamas using the holy Dharma of Buddha’s teachings for political aims. The NKT wants the holy Dharma to be free from these political problems.
The purpose of the the New Kadampa Tradition is to preserve and promote the essence of Buddha’s teachings in a form that is suited to the modern world and way of life. The New Kadampa Tradition says we need to study and practise Buddha’s teachings of three reasons: to develop our wisdom, to cultivate a good heart, and to maintain a peaceful state of mind, saying that if we don’t strive to develop our wisdom we will always remain ignorant of ultimate truth – the true nature of reality. Wishing for happiness but still being ignorant leads us to engage in non virtuous actions, which are the main cause of all our suffering. Also, if we do not cultivate and maintain a good heart our selfish motivation destroys harmony and good relationships with others. We have no inner peace and no chance to gain pure happiness.
All Buddhist teachings explains that without inner peace, outer peace is impossible. If our mind is not peaceful then even if we have ideal conditions, we find that we are not happy. On the other hand when we experience
peaceful states of mind, we can be happy even if our external conditions are bad. Therefore, the development of these qualities is of the utmost importance for our daily happiness, and for our society in general.
Geshe Kelsang, who brought the Kadampa tradition to the western society, is the only Tibetan Lama to have provided a complete re-presentation of the Buddhist path in accordance with the needs and inclinations of the modern world. He has designed three study programs of Buddhist teachings, and all New Kadampa Centres offer one or more of these. The program I am attending is called the General Program and introduces basic Buddhist view, meditation and practice suitable for beginners. It also includes advanced teachings and practices of both Sutra and Tantra for practitioners with greater experience.
The two other programs are The Foundation Programme and the Teachers program. The first of the two provides a systematic presentation of particular subjects of Mahayana Buddhism to enable practitioners to deepen their knowledge and experience of Buddhism.