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I’m the only Buddhist in my family and there are very few Buddhists in my community. To make matters worse, the closest Buddhist temple to me is a New Kadampa Tradition meditation center. Because of this, I’m starting to wonder if I’d be better off leaving my family behind because I think I’d have more exposure to the dharma with other people. Answers from any school of Buddhism are welcome.

Edit: The reason why I asked this question is that I thought I’d be held back from understanding the dharma if I was a Westerner with no other Buddhists in my life. In addition, I suspect my parents of being narcissists and that they’re using me as their golden child. I joined Buddhism at the age of nine because I lost interest in Christianity and saw Buddhism as much less dogmatic and more reasonable. However, now that I left NKT, I don’t have a master to rely on nor am I part of a sect, although other forms of Mahayana peak my interest with their focus on the collective whole.

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  • Why do you dislike the "New Kadampa Tradition meditation center"? Which tradition or sect do you belong to?
    – ruben2020
    Jan 16 at 8:00
  • There’s a lot of controversy surrounding the New Kadampa Tradition. A lot of people, mostly fellow Buddhists, accuse it of being a cult as the founder, Kelsang Gyatso, lied about being a certified Geshe, several monastic rules aren’t included, meditation centers of NKT charge members a lot of money, and the “monks” of NKT are often involved in drug trafficking and sexual abuse of female members. After leaving NKT, I really don’t know what sect I belong to anymore. The internet is all I have left, but I’m leaning towards other forms of Mahayana.
    – Gavin R.
    Jan 17 at 4:23
  • Thanks for reminding me about NKT. There's a question on NKT here: What is the relationship between the New Kadampa Tradition and Tibetan Buddhism?
    – ruben2020
    Jan 17 at 12:01

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Look after your family. When shit goes down, they will be the ones who help you out or look after you. You probably can't rely on people that are peripheral to your life or whose interest in you is merely to tick you off as a convert to their religion.

Most other Buddhists, including most Tibetan Buddhists, think that NKT is a cult. I've never encountered them personally, but I've also never heard anything good about them. Structurally, NKT seems like an attempt to reproduce the theocratic feudalism that existed in Tibet prior to the Chinese invasion. Doctrinally, they insist on a medieval worldview that is alien to most of us.

Western Buddhism is curiously individualistic at the best of times. Like, we can deal with the two jewels (Buddha and Dharma) but not the third jewel (Sangha). All traditional forms of Buddhism are community-based. Either a monastic community or a family-oriented lay community.

We are social monkeys: we live and thrive in communities. And we need to be wary of any group that suggests breaking existing social ties and to run a mile from any group that encourages the burning of social bridges.

Have you ever asked yourself what forms of Buddhism you find attractive? What attracted you to Buddhism in the first place?

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I’m the only Buddhist in my family and there are no similar Buddhists in my community. This has never concerned me because Buddhism, to me, is a personal path. For example, the Khaggavisana Sutta says:

We praise companionship — yes!

Those on a par, or better,

should be chosen as friends.

If they're not to be found,

living faultlessly,

wander alone

like a rhinoceros.

However, if you have no explicit family responsibilities, sure, venture to where you can develop Buddhist practice more deeply. The Dhamma is certainly thicker than both blood and water.

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  • That’s a beautiful sutra. I asked this question because I believed that having no other Buddhists in my life would hold me back, but I didn’t want to get into harmful tribalism. What would be considered harmful tribalism? And is it wrong to rely only on the internet for learning the Dharma when nobody else in one’s life is Buddhist?
    – Gavin R.
    Jan 19 at 1:11
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    Genuine Buddhist practice centres are overtly well-balanced. They offer some teaching support yet mostly encourage self-reliance & personal practise. As for leaning the Dhamma on the internet, its OK. No one has the capacity to manipulate you on the internet; unless you take mere words too seriously. Jan 19 at 8:27

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