Lama Ole: Buddhist teacher or charlatan?

By Joe Orso:

Joe Orso

3

Lama Ole: Buddhist teacher or

charlatan?

La Crosse, Wisconsin, November 15, 2009

http://lacrossetribune.com/news/local/article_bc6ed916-d197-11de-85b7-001cc4c002e0.html

Last week, a man some call a major driving force in Western Buddhism spoke at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse.

His lecture to more than 400 people at Graff Main Hall Auditorium raised a number of issues, which I’ll get to shortly, but which really crystallize around a very basic question: What makes you a Buddhist teacher? Or better put, which teachers are being true to the teachings of the Buddha and which are deforming them?

You can ask the question about any religious person. For instance, despite his popularity, his ability to quote Scripture and his claiming of Jesus as his savior, did what the Rev. Jerry Falwell preached really have anything to do with Jesus?

I’d say not, others would say it did, and we’d find religious authority (different than divine authority) to be a very subjective thing. So back to Lama Ole Nydahl, the curious figure who lectured for two hours Wednesday evening. The 68-year-old man comes from Denmark, said his Diamond Way Buddhism has 600 centers around the world, and is better known in Europe than the United States. About 80 of his followers, many from Europe, were in La Crosse and are following him on his lecture tour in this country.

So is what he taught Buddhism?

In the past several years, I have found it a common experience that whenever Nydahl’s Diamond Way Buddhism, which has a La Crosse center, comes up in conversation with other Buddhist practitioners, people question its validity. And some of these people have described Nydahl as a charlatan.

Unfortunately, his visit here supported this view — at least for me.

While some of what came out of his mouth fell within the framework of Buddhism — like words about suffering and emptiness — his ideas were more confusing than enlightening, and by the end of his lecture he was losing something like an audience member a minute.

To be fair, Nydahl was aware of his poor performance, which included pounding coffee, taking pills and leaving the stage for a bathroom break. He blamed it on jet lag, although he still found enough energy to join his students at a downtown bar afterwards. But even if he was just having a bad night, there is a more deeply disturbing aspect to the Nydahl phenomenon.

When I asked him the next day about claims that he has sexual encounters with his students, he didn’t deny this. “There’s no teacher-student relationship involved in that,” he said by phone. “They’re Diamond Way Buddhists, but they’re not my students in that moment. They’re equal partners.”

While I know I might be accused of puritan values, I firmly believe that such student-teacher relationships are predatory, and no clever logic can change that.

And to add to his recklessness, Nydahl ended our conversation describing Islam as “criminal.“ In our region there are some very kind people who are Diamond Way Buddhists, which made me hesitate writing this column.

And it should be said that Nydahl is connected to a lineage in Tibetan Buddhism.

As Matthew T. Kapstein, Numata visiting professor of Buddhist studies at The University of Chicago Divinity School, e-mailed me: “Ole has a genuine relation with the Kagyu School of Tibetan Buddhism, so he’s not quite a charlatan. However, he has his own interpretation and style, which do not accord closely with traditional practice among the Kagyu.“

But while I hesitated writing, since Buddhism is a minority religion here, I decided it would be valuable to clarify that at least some people question the authenticity of Nydahl’s Diamond Way.  And for those seekers curious about Buddhism, many other avenues can lead you to a tradition much richer and more grounded than what you’ll find in Nydahl.

At least, that’s my opinion.

22 Responses

  1. Most Tibetan Buddhist are very much against muslims and the muslim World. And Diamond way Buddhism is not an exception to Tibetan Buddhism. All Tibetan Buddhism is a cult. In the way that some students are subjected to various horrendeus abuse. And the use of so called occult powers to distruct is also something they all practice. But it is mostly done to people ( women?) Who they have broken so much, ore were broken on forbehand, that they cant speak out….That is were Oles Diamond Way differs from the rest. The people can speak out

    Like

  2. Genuine or not, take it from a fellow dane, amidst the worst shitstorm against Danish moslems right now, with nazi-, rightwing hooliganisme and other madmen coming forward, mr. Nydahl is one of those, that openly sides with these maniacs. In my opinion it disqualifies him as a buddhist teacher. He’s just another charlatan like so many other with a religious viewpoint. This is by no mean an attack on the belief, he claims to advocate, but should be a reminder to all of us, that fakes are everywhere.

    Like

  3. Thaye Dorje 17th.one!GyalwaKarmapa’REsponsibility for many ppl’lives .. no.com.end.s

    Like

  4. Genuine care about true karmapa vs own instincts&needs secured. how much on cost”others”too ? Borderless perfect ole’protection…& wealth position,makes easier seduce?or just share time with VIP,of course ole is not”formal”vip. POSITION MAKES EASIER ACCES TO WOMENS, BETWWEN PROTECTION OF KARMAPA(thhaye dorje-if second is wrong!deamon)AND TAKE ALL FOR OWN DIAMONDWAY MONOPOLY STANDARTS is-?-fullliberation-not necesary ordination BIG QUESTION MARK ole popularity quantity ,not allows to judge!becouse all case is -particular-diferent- http://buddhism-controversy-blog.com/2014/06/30/propaganda-the-making-of-the-holy-lama-ole-nydahl/ tendency in diamondways to not give space to critics ole’ seems to be present.ole +/- how many% white how few black?-indiviDUAL Hi!STORY,altrough colective impact is&can be?or will have to be in future ….as mix.of factors THERE ARE THINGS KNOWN AND UNKNOWN AND BETWEEN ARE THE DOORS of perception.thats about ole. karma kagyu leanidge is it only diamond(diamond mean male secret and ”this part of body” as well)way..is..way,to wheRE:GUIDE-thats-?-after death answeRING …………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………99%Teachings and few% of “adds”………………………..
    Siakjamuni’Teachings.is diamondway is 100% compatible? thats -?- DESIRE is or not is!SOURCE of SUFERING,is sex can be desireless

    Like

  5. …………………………and he boycotts Chinese products

    http://lacrossetribune.com/stories/opinion/your-views-tough-drug-laws-really-don-t-help/article_46c94403-9d98-57fd-8e6c-c24c1e2098c9.html

    SURE NEVER USE LAPTOPS&T-SHITS&NEVERun.etc

    Like

  6. However Guru Yoga is also reason why Kagyu-Lamas may behave very unconventionally (creasy wisdom).
    _______________________________________________________CRAZZY ningma&drukpas had been happens but
    Dways have””view”madE BY OLE////////8-Fold[path vide].

    *********************************************************************************

    Lama Ole is behaving is virtually nothing how for example late Kalu-rinpoche and even Trungpa-rinpoche

    _______________________________________________________SURE OLE IS BIG SHINE lamas small shadows with

    **********************************************************************************
    All-in-all in Lama Ole Nydal we have the best example of Kagyu Lama, most suitable for us western people for practicing of what is most precious in our Linage.
    ????????????????????????????????????????????????????
    Our leanigde AD 1991 or 2014 NAMED BY KUNZIG SHAMARPA Dharma!general ole-solutions||||||||||||||The||\\View.

    ________________________________________________________
    Remember that the objective in Guru Yoga is always your own understanding of your Lama as Buddha himself all times! This is the reason why any transmission of public teachings of Lama Ole would be only among the followers of the DWB of the Kagyu Buddhism in order not to create misunderstanding and confusion.

    ************************************************************let say this way adwanced practices gradualy after nyndro=ole great inspire so many many ppl=OK.
    GURU YOGA=LAMA+OWN MINDisplay,pure&clear
    like water flow, without adds, RECTRICTION FOR PUBLIC??
    Namkhai Norbu Rinpoche is good answer.however avoiding
    confrontation with true by HAVING OWN OLE”ROULES.is it cover “ideals=call dharmakai”,Mr.Karmapa, have very hard time now
    The Leanigde inside&outside in crisis stale don t you ole?
    HARD WORK with loving kindness&unsectary tolerance for Own Lamas!

    Like

  7. After being member of DW and Kagyu Buddhism for more than 4 years and always having very critical mind I have become sure about several things: Lama-Ole is really a genuine Kagyu Lama and I have accepted it as my genuine root Lama. It is very easy to check that he is not a charlatan – if he were not so he would surround him with the luxury for example. However we see him almost constantly on the very uncomfortably travels, changing all the times continents and time-zones for the sake of spreading a Dharma teaching among DWB members so he is practically killing himself with such a style of life (my sincere wishes form fast recoveries!). All of this also with such a speed that I am dizzy even to accompany all the web streamings. Yes, his language and actions can be, or can sound frequently harsh, but it is exactly here that most of people who are critical to Nydal fail to understand that they should practice Guru Yoga, a real message and the principal tool of DWB and Karma-Kagyu Linage without which their mind cannot make any progress in our linage.
    And there is so much about Guru Yoga! It does not mean automatically to agree and adopt every logical proposal your Lama is saying! However it mean to be aware of every action and the word of your Lama and to develop your own mechanism of dealing with it. On my view maybe some of these Lama’s actions/sayings will affect student mental state only emotionally because of strong resistance to adoption however he/she will have to find his/her way to deal with it. And this is the reason why Karmapa has decided many centuries ago that Guru Yoga be our principal practice and why it can guides us fast to enlightenment. It is the way to see the world through the eyes of other and ultimately to break the concepts of our mind about reality which guides directly to realization of Mahamudra.
    However Guru Yoga is also reason why Kagyu-Lamas may behave very unconventionally (creasy wisdom). Anyway, how Lama Ole is behaving is virtually nothing how for example late Kalu-rinpoche and even Trungpa-rinpoche behaved. The last one would definitively be too much for my stomach, although in my opinion he also have been a good Kagyu Lama as he did not at all deviate from pattern I just explained. All-in-all in Lama Ole Nydal we have the best example of Kagyu Lama, most suitable for us western people for practicing of what is most precious in our Linage. What is needed more? If you accept him for your root lama be aware – he is “laming” all the times, even in the situation when he is telling you that he is not (like this situation with his relationship with the girl above). Remember that the objective in Guru Yoga is always your own understanding of your Lama as Buddha himself all times! This is the reason why any transmission of public teachings of Lama Ole would be only among the followers of the DWB of the Kagyu Buddhism in order not to create misunderstanding and confusion.
    Thank you for attention.

    Like

  8. what is worst>?<

    FAKE17demonnness(with full unknown for all "productions")
    http://buddhism.ie/events/visit-holiness-17th-karmapa-europe-2014-germany-28-may-9-june/
    OR ole nydahl 'freeDRAMArides'
    ??

    WORST is double jackpot ON KARMAPA'LEANIDGE&!!!othersLAMASinvolved=WE LIVE IN WARJA HELL, no 'its clear COUNTry:denay both parts say are undual re:all:liza:ti!ONly on air? smell of broken DUALdi disPLAY:sadness

    Like

  9. “It has been my experience that people assume that self aware states by default accompany a certain set of values, virtues and ethical standards. It is not the case at all.” !!!

    No name, I fully agree. That´s exactly the point. With an idealistic view of enlightment you may expect that standard and if it is not realised he or she is said to be not enlightened. We have a lot of examples from our discussion here since Sogyal´s abusive behavier was described on this site. The TB-believers had only one explaination for hat: They denied the state of liberation and enlightment like they do according Nydahl. At least they are wondering, why a person like the DL accompanies Soggy although he is informed about misabuse, misabuse from our western point of view.

    Instead of realising: Situation normal, all fucked up! :-)

    Like

  10. “Where there is smoke, there is fire” is a saying that I think rings true most of the time. If there are many people complaining about a particular teacher, chances are things are not all well.

    Like

  11. It has been my experience that people assume that self aware states by default accompany a certain set of values, virtues and ethical standards. It is not the case at all. Martial arts is a good example, I have spent a lot of time in Shanghai with so called martial arts masters. Many are capable of many amazing things, both physical and mental but many are also of questionable character and prone to corruption and power games, substance abuse etc. I also lived in Kathmandu for 11 months working alongside monastery organisations on various projects. Again, same thing with many of these highly respected and powerful lamas/buddhist “gurus”.

    Like

  12. To be enlightened or to be psychotic means the same, depending on the cultural setting that state is put in. May be you are able to understand the result of the research, do you?

    The main different between the so called psychotic state and the enlightened one is the ability to change or to switch between depersonalisation and re-integration into personality.

    By the way, I don´t want to reach people with an idealistic view on enlightment.

    Like

  13. I just wonder how you can call someone on the journey from heaven to hell and someone who “inflame” the Kundalini of women for this goal normal human beeings? They don’t may be enlightend but psychotic on each case.

    Like

  14. “… would bring about the state of depersonalization and passivity to take control of another’s life.”

    I totally agree, Angie. I got a book from Bonnie Greebwell,, a Hindu practicioner in the USA, who researched a lot about that state. At the beginning of her book “Energies of Transformation. A Guide to the Kundalini Process” the editor of the German edition says:

    It has to be given a warning of taking a criminal teacher who´s intention is to take the Kundalini ernergies of the students for his own benefit.

    As the Trimondis showed in their book “The Shadow of the Dalai Lama”, within TB the “candali” energie of a “dakini” is used for the subtle process to enlightment of a male adept. That means according the definition above, the inherent practise of tibetan or tibetan school Lamas is abuse in general.

    Persons like Nydahl, in a state of mind like in the reaerch of Havard are able to “inflame” the Kundalini of a person who starts a journey from heaven to hell from then on.

    Like

  15. Marte-Micaela Riepe

    Thank you for the above link. It is very informative and a relief to finally get a scientific explanation. My anger is justified when anyone, for their gain, would bring about the state of depersonalization and passivity to take control of another’s life.

    Like

  16. Juliana:

    You may find that link helpful:

    http://cdasr.mclean.harvard.edu/content/publications/LATN/2001-2003/Lehmann_PRN01.pdf

    In opposite to Buddhists of all shades I do not have an idealistic view on enlightment. In my eyes it is nothing than a steadily altered state of mind with a lot of phenomena people beyond that state do not have. It is a normal part of human beeing.

    So, as I said above, Nydahl´s or anyone´s label “enlightment” is just that.

    Like

  17. Marte-Micaela Riepe
    I’m sure anyone reading this who has doubts about Ole’s so called enlightened state of mind would appreciate more information about this Harvard study. It is one thing to measure changes in the brain during meditation, this has been done many times on many people and is nothing special. But you refer to the study verifying some vague idea of “changed state of mind”. Would like to know more.

    Being declared “liberated” by some Tibetan cardinal really does’t mean much. Apparently Steven Segal is liberated.

    Like

  18. No comment

    Like

  19. You mentioned that he joined his students downtown in a bar. Do you know if he consumes alcohol?
    Also, is he a pure vegetarian?

    Like

  20. Gloria,

    to be called a charlatan is usual within the Buddhist community and shows its dysfunctional character. That`s a view from the inside, an outer expert is most often not able to see it.

    When I am speaking about my experiences in the “Diamond Way” I never talk about such definitions it would only be a deflection. What is genuine TB? Ask hundred Lamaists you will get hundred and one answers. The whole TB is splinted into small sects and they begrudge each other the very air they breathe. For some Nydahl is a charlatan for the others not, the heck with it.

    He was declared as liberated by the old Kalu what means he had changed his state of mind a long time ago. There is a research of his brain by Harvard studies which shows that fact. This state makes him belong to the class of the enlightened within TB and not the behavior he shows. That explains why he is accepted within the Kagy-line of Sharmapa and his Karmapa, both so called, I do not believe in reincarnation.

    So my intention is not to say Nydahl is the worst one on earth, he is just as bad as all the others.

    Liked by 1 person

  21. Does Mr. Kapstein believe that because one has a relationship to or with a legitimate school of Buddhism that clears all doubts of one being a charlatan? The greatest charlatans were those who used the name of the lineage for their benefit and to hide behind.

    I’m also curious for a little more details regarding what Ole said to make you view him as a charlatan.

    Gloria I add that section of the article to make your point clearer:

    As Matthew T. Kapstein, Numata visiting professor of Buddhist studies at The University of Chicago Divinity School, e-mailed me: “Ole has a genuine relation with the Kagyu School of Tibetan Buddhism, so he’s not quite a charlatan. However, he has his own interpretation and style, which do not accord closely with traditional practice among the Kagyu.“

    Like

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: