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Is Diamond Way Buddhism a CULT??
typing_sound wrote in buddhistgroup
I think this is quite an important topic, since one of our members is thinking of going to a Diamond Way Buddhism centre. I did a little searching, and there are some testimonies of women being sexually harassed, and a lot of claims that the tradition is inauthentic and a cult. If you guys could help me, by either doing some research or sharing what you know about the tradition, that would really help me out! We don't want one of our members taking the poison cool-aid mixture, am I right?! It's time for Community Action! Dun-duh-duuhhh! Lol

(Deleted comment)
That is not a good sign at all, that he disregarded them. A good teacher appreciates the wisdom in all traditions. That would be an alarm-bell for me.

Nah, it's totally okay since Ole Nydahl must surely be enlightened and chock full of crazy wisdom, so how do us unenlightened folks dare to judge his actions?
Clearly his actions help spread the Dharma in the West, so everything he does is automatically a-ok.

Eeek. Good resources. I did spot one thing in a video that sort of worried me, and that's that he says that he doesn't sit to meditate. Didn't really feel like that was a good sign given that the Dalai Lama sits for four hours a day still. If it's good enough for him, it's good enough for me.

My personal guideline when trying to determine whether a denomination is a cult or not is that if the group itself has to spend a significant portion of its time explaining to prospective and increasingly disgruntled members why it is NOT a cult, it is.

I actually just got done watching a documentary on the People's Temple (you know, Jim Jones and the kool-aid and all that) that, unlike some of the other documentaries or articles that I've seen in the past, is composed entirely of accounts from people that were there, some of which were even there while people were drinking the koolaid and dying all around them. So cults are on my mind right now :( I just hope that everyone that is in an abusive group will eventually have the strength, courage, awakening, or ability to leave.

Here is the Wiki page of Lama Ole Nydahl.


It seems that the accusations brought against him might at least partially be explained by the split that occured in the Karma Kagyu lineage.

Ole Nydhal sided with the Karmapa candidate that was not recognised by the Dalai Lama and questioned the choice of the Karmapa candidate which received the blessings of HH the Dalai Lama.

Besides, he worked very actively to westernize Vajrayana Buddhism, which might be not so welcome with some ethnic Tibetan members of the Lamaist hierarchy.

About having sex with female members of the Diamond Way, Ole Nydhal recognized that he had affairs with some of the members of this organisation.

But he denied that there has been any misuse of his personal authority and claims that the women he slept with were his "equals". His wife seem to have been knowing about these relationships.

One must keep in mind that Lama Nydhal and his wife were hippies who smuggled hashish from Nepal at the end of the 60ies and Lama Nydhal got to jail for this. So his behaviour might be some knind of "babyboomer flower-power woodstock"-type.

Ole Nydhal seems also to have made some "white-pride" style comments made, specifically about Islam.

But he has himself confessed that his personal style was quite non-conformist and politically incorrect and has told that his comments were not directed against mystical Islam (Sufism) or syncretic teachings born out of Islam (such as Bahai faith) but against Islamist militants (from personal experience I would comment that he was right about the Wahabite Djihadists: they suck).

I am not sure if Diamond Way qualifies as a cult (at least not more a cult as some other groups inside Vajrayana).

Maybe he might be compared to Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche, but white and sober. :-)

But his organisation sure gets on the nerves of some people (maybe the fact that Lama Nydhal is white and somehow eurocentrist could explain some of the controversy).

Man Tibetan Buddhism needs quality control mechanisms in place.

Too many unqualified crazies claiming to be gurus and hurting people.

I know institutionalized religion isn't so popular nowadays, but we really need it. Organizations that certify teachers as legit and healthy.

In modern Taiwanese traditions they issue academic degrees and they're in robes with several years under your belt of upholding the vinaya.

Who would certify them in Tibetan Buddhism? The Dalai Lama?

There's my problem.

Each lineage should be free to authorise their own Teachers without political interference. Such authorisation needs to come from the head of the tradition who is a pure Spiritual Guide, democratically chosen by the senior practitioners of that tradition because of their good qualities.

Ole Nydahl/Diamond Way Buddhism

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I saw a discussion on Diamond Way Buddhism and will speak since I've met Ole Nydahl.

He was a close disciple of the 16th Karmapa who sent him to the West and who died in 1981. Picking the next Karmapa fell to three high lamas.

Two of them decided he was a boy living inside Tibet (China).

Ole Nydahl and the third high lama (the Shamarpa) believed the boy in China would become a Chinese puppet. Not unlikely, since that happened to the "Panchen Lama" (like the Dalai Lama,a famous reincarnate).

So, Ole and shamarpa located a candidate living in India and announced him as Karmapa.

All was fine, until the Chinese Karmapa escaped China into India, making two Karmapas.

Why dredge this up? It's why a lot of people dislike Ole Nydahl. Most Karma Kagyus landed on the side of the other karmapa, not Ole and Sharmapa's.

Another point, Ole Nydahl is from Denmark. In the sixties he and other Euro-Buddhists often drove in cars from Europe to India. So they passed many, many times through Muslim countries. They got a dose of Muslim societies up close and personal.

Hence, when I met him (1990) he said "Radical Islam is the greatest danger to our western democracies." That was eleven years before 9/11. I thought, "That's really over the top, too extreme." Then on 9/11 within half an hour I thought, "My God, that crazy Dane was right."

He's indicated Islam's treatment of women bothers him. He's not racist. His views on Islam have nothing to do with race.

So, he's from Denmark, one of the most sexually wide open places on earth--sexuality so blatant that as an American your eyes leap from their sockets. My point is he's very "European" about sexuality. He's had many girlfriends. That said, the idea that he would "sexually assault" anyone is total crap. It's a rumor, a distorted take on his non-monogamous lifestyle. Trust me, not with a gun to his head would he do anything to hurt anyone. He's the opposite of that.

All his relationships are totally consensual with adult female partners.

It's interesting Muslim societies are oppressive to women and nobody gets excited, but the fact that this guy is flamingly non-monogamy, (though he clearly likes women, puts them in positions of power etc), drives everybody nuts. This is more about our north american puritanical heritage than anything.

His specialty is leading large groups in a practice called "Powha", a preparation for death--one of Naropa's six yogas. That's where i met him in 1990.

Doing powha you send so much prana/chi through the top of your head an energy channel opens. Everyone gets a "sign" when the process is complete. Mine was a tiny cut, likeunto a paper cut, on top of my head.

My teacher, Tenzin Wangyal, said in India after powha they took a little stalk of grass and inserted it into the cut then when the wind blew over it, the nerve tingled all the way down to his navel.

The teaching says when you die your mind will use that channel to exit your body insuring an easier time in "the bardo."

Everyone at Ole's powha got some sign.

So, that's what Ole Nydahl did for me.

At the end of the powha I went up and touched foreheads with him and he gave me the strongest "spiritual zap" I've ever had. It was STRONG jack.

He said getting zapped by Sixteenth karmapa was like "Sticking two fingers in a light socket and feeling all the electricity in the bay area go through your bones."

That's my story. I know he's a real sweet guy. If someone wants to go to a Diamond Way event, they should go see for themselves. It's one hundred per cent safe. I'd send my daughter or sister with no worries. Ole Nydahl is controversial but he's an extremely nice person.

Best of luck, Buddhist friends.


Re: Ole Nydahl/Diamond Way Buddhism

Thanks a lot for taking the time to write this. It's really appreciated.

My beef with Diamond Way

Is the PRICE!
Holy cow!
I left after they tried to shake me down for a weekend teaching.

Edited at 2010-02-24 07:19 am (UTC)

Re: My beef with Diamond Way

I don't know about the prices, but every organization needs money to function. I don't think it's unreasonable to charge when you've got bills to pay, the question is whether it's a reasonable charge or not.

I don't think anyone is in a position to judge another tradition unless you are involved and have personal experience. It's best to leave well alone. I'm particular sensitive to this issue since my own tradition, the New Kadampa Tradition has received a lot of criticism by Tibetan Buddhists and also by disgruntled ex-practitioners, some of which may be justified because of the actions of certain individuals, but most of it is not. In general, the internet is full of rumour, speculation, misinformation and conspiracy theories and postings on the internet are not a good way to come to a correct conclusion about anything.

If anyone is interested in following Diamond Way Buddhism, let them attend some meetings, read some books and make their own conclusions. My understanding is that Ole Nydhal is a student of the 16th Karmapa who was a pure Spiritual Guide and he received his authorization to teach - as for the rest, I know nothing.

I agree. Some of the accusations against the Kadampa tradition are ridiculous. Someone once told me that he thought Geshe Kelsang was up to black magic, lol.

I'm a student of Lama Ole Nydahl, so that's my declaration of bias upfront.
I have to say it's fascinating reading this discussion, and it's also wonderful that this group protects its members in this way. I totally agree that we should be more critical of our teachers and groups, and try to find one that is in a genuine lineage, and genuinely beneficial.
To address a couple of specific points raised here:

typingsound: "A good teacher appreciates the wisdom in all traditions."
Yes, in principle. In practice, libraries in the Dalai Lama's places are unlikely to contain Nyingma books, and definitely not Shugden, Christian, or Sufi texts. It is a modern Western tendency to mix everything up. In the Diamond Way you can read whatever you like, but it's best, assuming you want to practice Karma Kagyu Buddhism with us, that you start by understanding the basics of Karma Kagyu Buddhism as we practice it.

plexq: "I did spot one thing in a video that sort of worried me, and that's that he says that he doesn't sit to meditate."
That's not quite a full description. Lama Ole did some years of sitting meditation (up to 18hrs/day) under the 16th Karmapa, has done some retreats, and sits in quite extraordinary states of meditation for 9 hours a day for 5 days every month for the Phowa courses. You can research independently what phowa is, and how few teachers are authorised to give it. He also sits to meditate whenever he has time (e.g. at the end of lectures), which is probably max once a day. I think maybe what was meant is that he tries always to be in meditation, even while walking and talking.

ocha_no_hanashi: "[We need]...Organizations that certify teachers as legit and healthy."
Yes. See http://www.lama-ole-nydahl.us/olesite/pages/person/certificate1.html
and http://www.lama-ole-nydahl.org/olesite/pages/person/ole_shamar_letter.pdf

Apologies for the long post. I'll be quiet now, unless there are any questions specifically for me. Best of luck in your practice and your search.

(Deleted comment)
I think every time you join a group of people involved into spiritual practice you better be careful.

Spiritual manipulation is probably as harmful (if not more) than physical assault.

Does it mean that we better not join others for spiritual practice?

I think that the answer is obviously no.

But we really better keep our eyes open...

Good advice, I totally agree. The psychological effect of being in a tradition like that can be very harmful, and it's very difficult to get out again, since you've adopted their belief-system on a deep level, you might believe harm will come to you if you leave, like a million life-times in the hot hell.

Speaking of cults in western Buddhism, the exemple of the Friends of Western Buddhist Order (FWBO) is a classical case.

Very sobering...

Read here:



So, going back to my earlier point, you must have personal experience of the FWBO to be criticising it?

I know people in the FWBO, they are not cult members. They're good people.

Please don't criticise what you don't know and haven't experienced.

Another Perspective on the Diamond Way: Part 1 of 3

Hey zyxkym, thank you for your comments. Like diamond_dorje it's really valuable to get the opinions and experiences of people who follow the Diamond Way.

Lama Ole Nydahl appears to be an exceptionally charismatic person and an accomplished facilitator, especially when leading a large group Powha. That sounds like an extremely powerful process. 'As everyone at Ole's Powha got some sign', I can imagine that many, if not all, participants were in an altered space, taken there by Ole.
This is very powerful stuff. Few people have the ability to transcend others into an altered space, where the mind is blown wide open and ready to receive.
By leading this process so effectively, Ole acquires great power; power over the open minds of the participants.
In this open state, the mind is vulnerable. Information that goes in, goes in deep, creating the basis of a belief system. The facilitator assumes a profound responsibility, one that must be exercised with integrity.

It is a human tendency to worship the powerful. Not everyone does, some hold a healthy scepticism for the powerful. Many of us are not so questioning. We trust and we place our trust in the powerful persona. This further enhances their power.

In a organisation such as the Diamond Way, as more processes are facilitated, the power of the facilitator continues to grow. When that power is directly focused on the deep inner psyche, the energy transference to the recipient, is likely to be greater than anything they have ever experienced. The facilitator/teacher is held in high esteem, and for some, that will not be enough, particularly if the facilitator has given them the greatest energy rush of their lives. It is almost unavoidable that some participants will actively worship their teacher/facilitator.

This should not happen. A good teacher/leader/faciliator knows this. At the end of any process where the facilitator or any other participant assumes a role, there must be a clear and effective de-role. Ole is assuming the role of the Giver of Enlightenment. If he does not de-role, the participants are liable to project onto him after the process. This feeds the ego of the teacher/leader whose power and control grows and whose ego inflates.
Respect for a good facilitator is appropriate, nothing more. A good facilitator never assumes a role, they simply facilitate. Ole confuses facilitation with teaching and then with giving. He allows participants to believe that it is he, who is giving them energy. "...he gave me the strongest "spiritual zap" I've ever had".

Ole may appear to have little ego, you say he's, "a real sweet guy'. This is a matter for concern. A charismatic persona has to have an ego. Ole would not lead a large group process, without an effective de-role, if he had no ego to feed.

Ego, so what's the problem? Well, not much.... if it is held out in the light for all to see. But Ole keep's his hidden, in shadow. That is a dangerous facilitator, one either in denial or intending to deceive. Ole's ego feeds off the power invested in him by the group of people called Diamond Way.

zyxkym, in Part 2, you are now going to read how badly you have been taken in and learn about your participating role in the abuse dynamic. You may not like this, but its time to wake up.......

Another Perspective on the Diamond Way: Part 2 of 3

"All his relationships are totally consensual with adult female partners." A statement zyxkym have made about Lama Ole Nydahl.

When someone, who holds power over another, allows a sexual relationship to develop, they perpetrate abuse. This applies to the boss/worker dynamic, the teacher/pupil dynamic, the carer/service user dynamic, the doctor/patient dynamic or the priest/congregation dynamic. Had enough? Beginning to get it?

Where the sexual relationship has one participant who holds minimal influence over another, it is unlikely that the effects of the abusing relationship will cause much harm. Where great power is held over the deep psyche of the other, grave and serious abuse may be perpetrated. The victim of abuse may be superficially effected, but is more likely to be profoundly effected. The extent of the harm will depend on the psyche of the victim. However, a well developed psyche would not get into this (potential) victim space.

'Give me a break', you may reply. 'I said, "totally consensual". These women wanted it!' you may believe.

I'll concede one dynamic, if a woman enters into Diamond Way with the intention of having a sexual relationship with Lama Ole Nydahl (or others), no abuse is perpetrated if and when a sexual relationship develops. Whether or not that is healthy for the Diamond Way, is outside the remit of this post.

Will you concede that most females entering into Diamond Way are looking for Spiritual Enlightenment, something to give a meaning to their lives? Not a sexual relationship with a charismatic teacher.

Now lets consider the, 'Danish, sexually wide open' perspective. You may have a point, if all the females that Ole has sex with are, 'Danish and sexually wide open'. But they are not.

'But not all the females have sex with Lama Ole Nydahl', you may claim in desperation. If you even thought of going down that route, you have accepted that Ole does perpetrate abuse sexual relationships within the Diamond Way.

Fact is zyxkym, you now exhibit the behaviour of a tacit abuser. I know this because, you would, 'send my daughter or sister with no worries' to the Diamond Way.

Ole has got to you. His power and his charisma have so influenced you, that you believe it is OK for a teacher, priest, carer, facilitator (take your pick) to have sex with the people they serve.

Ask yourself this, "If you were Ole, would you have sex with those women?" If the answer is ,'yes', you are not tacit. You are complicit.

Ole is an experienced and sophisticated operator. He deflects from his own behaviour by drawing attention to dysfunctional sexual behaviour performed in other societies. Then he selects his victim. He will not select a woman who is likely to respond negatively. He needs good sex and he does not need bad press. So he will select willing, attractive victims who appear to have a reasonably robust psyche. Does this make it OK in your eyes?

The dynamics and management of the sexual relationship are outside this post. But if Ole is smart, he will take great care to protect his reputation.

Unwittingly, you have become a supporter of the sexually abusive organisation that Ole has created to feed his ego. An organisation in which it is considered good for sexual relationships to flourish? This is in an environment where people go to seek Spiritual Enlightenment. You have said that you think this is OK. You have even promoted it. You actively recommended it to others. You were taken in, hook, line and sinker!

To have integrity with Diamond Way, the only people Lama Ole Nydahl should have sexual relationships with, must be outside the Diamond Way, or a clearly recognised partner(s) within DW. The same applies to you.

In Part 3, you will find out what has to happen next.

Another Perspective on the Diamond Way: Part 3 of 3

Integrity and Accountability

For you to get back into integrity with the members, and particularly the female members, of Diamond Way, you should look at your own sexual shadows, make amends if and where appropriate, and then help Lama Ole Nydahl to see his own shadows. I doubt the latter will happen. So the sooner the Diamond Way is fully understood by all participants for what it is, the better.

Ask yourself this... after 10 years of Diamond Way, are you living a Spiritually Enlightened life?

It is extremely difficult for people to develop Enlightenment where abuse, covert or overt, is being perpetrated. The human deep psyche cannot be directly Enlightened by abuse. It is taken towards the dark side. But where the abuse is understood, and the victim is not willing, Enlightenment can be attained. You can ask Nelson Mandella about that.

The Dark Side, this is where Lama Ole Nydahl is leading the members of the Diamond Way. Whether or not he is aware of this, is outside this post.

The Diamond Way is a Cult. It has a prominent, charismatic leader onto whom the members project their faith.

zyxkym, I am sure this new perspective on your involvement with the Diamond Way is a shock to you. You may reject it, to protect yourself, or accept it, in part or in its entirety (that may take time). If you choose acceptance, do not beat yourself up. Also, be careful of hostile action towards Ole. He is a weak individual, hiding behind a deceptive persona. Should he choose to seek Enlightenment and make amends, he will need love and care. A lot of healing will be required, and Diamond Way will not persist in its current manifestation. It will require MULTIPLE leaders, with soulful integrity. They must have accountability to each other and all members. Only then, can Diamond Way transform into a healthy organisation that does deliver Enlightenment to its members.

I wish you well zyxkym, shine a light towards the diamond and find a way to disperse the darkness. There is a part of Ole that wants this to happen.

The Soulful Phoenix

Thanks a lot to Phoenix for the elaborate posts!!

What was the role of his late wife in all of this? Has she been a victim?