The Kadampa religion is a form of Buddhism in practice throughout the world and has surprising similarities to Catholicism. This essay was largely a compilation of facts from a private interview with Keith Taynton a member of the Kadampa religion. The essay will begin with the history and after the interview; section there will follow a brief comparison with Catholicism. (Kadampa.org, 2005)

The Core of the Practice

“Happiness is a state of mind, therefore the real source of happiness lies in the mind, not in external circumstances.”

The practice of Kadampa is one of meditation. However, the practice of meditation is subject to guided teaching and study. A Spiritual Guide must guide the members of Kadampa. There is also the practice of making offerings and recitation of prayers. The prayers are offered to Shakyamuni Buddha. (Kadampa.org, 2005)


Meditation is done in Kadampa to achieve a peaceful happy state. The mind is full of attachments and is happy only temporarily when things are going right for us. When we are in unhappy situations, we are swayed to be unhappy. The practice of Kadampa is done to free the mind from delusion and achieve a state of liberation or nirvana. The quest is to lead life after life of only peace and happiness. (Kadampa.org, 2005)


The Kadampa religion was introduced into Tibet by an Indian Master named Atisha in AD 982-1054. Buddhism had been introduced earlier into Tibet but had been pretty much destroyed by Lang Darma the Tibetan King in about A.D. 836. Lang Darma was a member of the Bon religion, which was in strength before Buddhism in Tibet. The followers of Atisha are called Kadampas. Ka refers to the teaching of the Buddha and dam means instruction in a personal fashion. The instruction is done through Atisha’s Lamrim, which refers to the stages of the path. The teachers of Kadampa are called Geshes and are known for being great scholars as well as having purity and sincerity. (Kadampa.org, 2005)

In the 14th century, there appeared a great master or guru known as Je Tsongkhapa. Je Tsongkhapa had a following of thousands of Tibetans and this was known as a golden age in Tibet. The followers of Je Tsongkhapa are known as the new Kadampas and his teaching is followed today. (Kadampa.org, 2005)

In today’s Kadampa, the most famous teacher has the name of Geshe Kelsang Gyatso or commonly Geshe-la. Geshe-la is responsible for establishing over one thousand Kadampa centers all over the world and started a project to construct temples in all the major cities of the world. His immediate disciple is a master known as Gen-la Kelsang Khyenrab who has been practicing for 25 years and is the leader in the UK. (Kadampa.org, 2005)


The Kadampa religion is full of Deities, which take the form of Buddhas or other holy beings such as Tantric Buddhas or Spiritual Guides. The principal ones number about thirty-five. One example of a deity is the Thousand Arm Avalokiteshvara. He is the Buddha of compassion. When a member prays to this Buddha compassion is received. The Buddha has one thousand arms. Each arm has a palm with an eye in it. This signifies that he watches over all infinite beings with compassion (Kadampa.org, 2005)


The scriptures take the form of the Lamrim (the instructions of Atisha), the advice of Atisha, the three principal aspects of the path, and the prayer of the stages of the path. (Kadampa.org, 2005)

The Interview

What is your daily practice?

The practice, if adhered to with diligence, is yoga tantric meditation done in the morning about seven o’clock and in the evening about six o’clock. This practice consists of mantra meditation with many different mantras. (Taynton 2007)

What are the holidays or traditions?

Each month there are two meeting called Lama Chofa (offering to the spiritual guide). These meetings occur on the second and tenth day of the month. At the meetings there are offerings of food, water, flowers, incense light and music. The prayers done at the meetings are sung. On the twenty-eighth of the month, there is a special offering to the Dharma protector. In addition, there are four other retreats of one-week duration that entail collecting one hundred thousand mantras in advance of attending. Each spiritual guide and Buddha has a separate mantra. (Taynton 2007)

Does your religion have Deities?

Each spiritual guide is a deity and each Buddha is a deity. The spiritual guides are physical incarnations of Buddhas. There are about thirty main deities but many more exist. A Buddha is fully enlightened and has supernatural powers. Bodhisattvas also have a more limited supernatural power but are capable of miracle healing. Spiritual guides are considered incarnated Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. (Taynton 2007)

Does your religion have the belief in heaven and hell?

The answer is yes, however heaven is more of a state reached by enlightenment rather than a place to go to and stay. Hell is also a state rather than a place. Both states exist within the mind causing suffering or tranquility. The wheel of life continues regardless of a member’s level of enlightenment. Therefore, reincarnation is the normal occurrence. Buddhas have broken through this cycle but always choose to incarnate in the form of a spiritual teacher. (Taynton 2007)

What are the challenges of practicing your religion?

The main challenge of this religion is the inner struggle with oneself. This is a battle of the mind to overcome selfish attachments and suffering due to misunderstanding life. The religion itself receives good acceptance in society although at the beginning it was perceived as a hippies’ kind of indulgence in western society. When the religion was first propagated through the world, there was some resistance from Tibetan follower of the Dali Lama. The followers of the Dali Lama thought Kadampa was a form of religion that stepped around the Dali Lama’s teaching. This recently has become less acute. (Taynton 2007)

How many members of Kadampa are there?

The membership is unclear since there is no strict cataloging of membership. Only when donations are made is there a record. A guess of membership would be around twenty to forty thousand but this number may be more or less. (Taynton 2007)

How are the financial obligations met?

Money is received only through donations so there is always a financial struggle. This follows a belief that the acquiring of wealth is a direct route to suffering. (Taynton 2007)

What is the place of worship?

The main temple in western society is in the U.K. The name of the temple is Kadampa World Peace Temple and is located in Ulverston England. There are many centers in the world but each is a normal residence. The Kadampa organization does not finance the centers instead the believer of strong faith establishes a residence that several members will reside in and this is where meetings are held. (Taynton 2007)

What if any are the religious articles or attire members have?

In England the members were robes but not here since the membership is very small. Each member has a rosary and a statue of Shakyamuni Buddha. The statue is in use during the meditation and faces east. (Taynton 2007)

Does your religion believe in any future events such as the coming of a messiah etc.?

The Kadampa belief is that in five hundred years the world will be in a religiously impoverished state awaiting the rebirth of a spiritual leader; however, we are always looking for rebirths of Buddhas. (Taynton 2007)

How are rebirths found or predicted?

The leader of today’s Kadampa is Gesha-la and he has a ritual for finding reincarnations. This ritual has been performed for Gesha-la’s relatives and thus far, he has found his uncle and his mother who both have been reborn in member’s families. The ritual though is not regularly performed for other members. (Taynton 2007)

How are funerals performed for members?

A long time ago in Tibet bodies of the deceased were taken to the mountaintops and cut into pieces to be eaten by the birds. However, these days the families take care of their own funerals in whatever fashion they feel is appropriate. After the death, there is sometimes a meeting to prayer for the rapid rebirth in fortunate circumstances.

(Taynton 2007)

How has this religion shaped your life?

The practice of this religion has given me the answers I was seeking. The questions as to how to lead a life on earth and the universe have been answered. In addition, I have daily happiness that I can share with others. (Taynton 2007)

Comparison to Catholicism

The religion of Kadampa has many saints or deities. Catholicism has about ten thousand. (Catholic Online 2007) In this aspect, the religions are very similar. In addition, Kadampas use different deities for different problems. For example, Kadampa members pray to the medicine Buddha for relief from sickness or mental suffering.

Catholics pray to St. Monica or rather with St.Monica if they have problems getting their prayers answered. (Catholic Online 2007)

In addition, Catholics have pre-written prayers to certain Saints as do the Kadampa members to their deities. Another similarity is the singing of prayers. Catholics chant or sing hymns or prayers as do the Kadampa. Catholics incorporate rosary recitation with meditative prayer. Kadampas recite prayers and meditate mantras. (Catholic Online 2007)

There are more surface similarities such as the belief in a time of religious poverty in the Kadampa religion. In Catholicism, the General Judgment Day is preceded by a reign of the Anti-Christ who will persecute the church. (Catholic Online 2007) This belief is similar to the Kadampa’s belief in religious poverty with the expectation of a rebirth.

(Catholic Online 2007)

Another similarity is the use of statues. Catholics have statues of saints and of Jesus. Kadampas in like manner have statues of Buddhas. The miracle of healing and other supernatural powers are mentioned in both religions. Recently, a French nun of the Catholic Church has claimed healing by Pope John the II of her Parkinson’s disease. This miracle is being examined by the church. (Catholic Online 2007)

The main differences between Catholicism and Kadampa are that Catholics believe in one God behind the angels and saints. In addition, Catholics believe in the holy trinity, most specifically Jesus Christ being the son of God. (Catholic Online 2007) One other important difference is the Kadampas carry the strictness of not acquiring material wealth into the funding of the church itself. (Taynton 2007) Catholicism on the other hand has both extreme wealth and power. The Kadampa religion also abstains from politics whereas the Catholic Church has great political influence. (Taynton 2007)


The Kadampa religion is one of meditation and prayer. Kadampa incorporates deities in its practice with a spiritual guide to keep the member on the right track. The religion is a quiet one in the world, which may be due to the lack of funding. As in all religions the happiness and well-being of human beings is a main goal along with world peace. Kadampa has many similarities in form of worship to Catholicism but has the main difference of not worshiping one God. Kadampa may be a small religion but it has the great strength of acceptance of all people regardless of beliefs or social status. This strength along with its goal of world peace should make us aware that it is a valid and important religion in the world.


Catholic Online (2007), Saints and angels, all about saints, Copyright © 2007 Catholic Online, Retrieved May 12, 2007 from http://www.catholic.org/saints/faq.php#pray

Kadampa.org (2005), Kadampa, the website of the new kadampa tradition, the international kadampa Buddhist union, © 2005 The New Kadampa Tradition, All rights reserved worldwide, Retrieved May 11, 2007 from http://www.kadampa.org/english/practice/practices.php

Taynton (2007), Kadampa member, British nationality, Osaka Japan

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