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Introduction to the controversy about Karmapas
A few historical points
1959 : Karmapa flees to India
Difficulties in 16th Karmapa's times
Years 1980 Through 1990
Events beginning 1992
Events during May and June 1992
Propaganda campaign
Orgyen Trinley, Situ Rinpoche's Karmapa
Events during November and December 1992 in Rumtek
Some information about Sikkim
Year 1993 - situation deteriorates in Rumtek
Recognizing the 17th Karmapa Trinley Thaye Dorje
Year 1994
Controversy: opposing viewpoints
Relationship between Shamar Rinpoche and Dalaï Lama
A quick glance at events from years 1995 to 1999
Year 2000
Year 2001
Chronology of Events
Bibliography and data sources
french version
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Propaganda campaign

Disparagement led by Lea Terhune, Situpa's secretary

Wrong translation for the 5th Karmapa's predictions

About Chogyur Lingpa's prophecy

Shamar Rinpoche comments on Chogyur Lingpa's predictions


Disparagement led by Lea Terhune, Situpa's secretary

At this time, two documents turned up in the West, proof that the rumor campaign was still in motion. Lea Terhune, Situpa's secretary, who had already made a name for herself in 1983 in the failed attempt to take Shamarpa to court, had sent a letter to all Kagyu centers. "A faction composed of members of the previous Karmapa's family," as she called Shamarpa and Topgala, "had come out in the open." She disclosed that the above two notables had actively opposed the recognition of the 17th Karmapa for years and implied that the pair may have been involved in the tragic death of Jamgon Kongtrul. Again the same allegation about Kongtrul's car crash, but this time coming from a Westerner.

As to the fatal accident, an interesting detail emerged. It was Jamgon Rinpoche himself who drove the BMW, his driver sitting passively in the front seat beside him. Hardly able to drive, with no driver's license, and not in the least familiar with the powerful machine, he simply pushed on the accelerator, and in no time the vehicle was speeding at 110 mph. All this on a narrow, bumpy Indian road! What followed next was probably difficult to avoid with an inexperienced person behind the wheel. Tibetans, however, kept their mouths shut, for it would have been highly improper to disclose that a Rinpoche drove a car.


Wrong translation for the 5th Karmapa's predictions

The second piece was a translation of an excerpt from a prophecy by the 5th Karmapa. The poem described some difficult times in the future and pointed to a negative individual by the name of Na-tha, who would bring much havoc to the lineage. Erroneously implying that na-tha was Tibetan for nephew, Michell Martin, Situpa's Tibetan translator, immediately jumped to the conclusion that the evil Na-tha was none other than Topgala-the general secretary who was related to the 16th Karmapa. She conveniently admitted that it could also be Kunzig Shamarpa, who belonged to the same family.

In reality though, the word na-tha does not exist in Tibetan. Its meaning of nephew was simply the product of the translator's dishonest imagination, used in this case to discredit Situpa's political enemies. Moreover, while the prophecy talks of the time in east Tibet during the 15th Karmapa's life, Michell Martin, omitting parts of the original text, concluded that it was present-day Rumtek the author had in mind. And so, fingers were pointed and defaming letters were posted, engaging, this time, the supreme authority of the head of the lineage.


About Chogyur Lingpa's prophecy

Chogyur Dechen Lingpa was a great tertön ("discoverer of spiritual treasures") in the 19th century. While visiting Karma monastery, he had a vision of the succeeding twenty one incarnations of Karmapa. A while later, he described what he had seen to the Karma monastery abbot, who afterwards faithfully painted it on a silk scroll. This painting, carefuly kept for over a century, details the prophetic vision as it was laid down in handwritting by Chogyur Lingpa's closest disciples.

Up to this day, Situ Rinpoche's followers will cite this prophecy again and again to ascertain their choice of Urgyen Trinley as the authentic Karmapa.

During Spring 2000, a U.S. center will go as far as publishing a glossy book with many pictures of kagyu lineage holders.. The storybook follows closely the predictions of this great saint of the past, to conclude that Urgyen Trinley is the true Karmapa, giving as an extra proof, the tibetan text and its translation.

Excerpt of a "book review":

(…) Foremost among the extraordinary details given out in the prophecies, is the description of the 17th Karmapa studying with his teacher, the 12th Taï Situpa. As described in the book Karmapa, since long, succeeding incarnations of Karmapas and Situpas have acted as teacher toward each other, preserving and transmitting the most sacred teachings of the Kagyu lineage. Now the seventennth Karmapa and Taï Situpa have been reunited in India, where Karmapa will finish up with his studies as predicted by Chogyur Lingpa, and a new chapter of Karmapa's history will unfold (…)


Shamar Rinpoche comments on Chogyur Lingpa's predictions

One of Chogyur Lingpa's visions described in his biography predicts the extraordinary activities of the future Karmapas. I consider this to be a genuine vision and have no objection to its content.

This prophecy clearly states that the 17th Kannapa meets with Khentin Tai Situ Rinpoche, that "...their minds. mix as one", etc.

It is, however, not mentioned that Tai Situ Rinpoche would recognise the incarnation of Gyalwa. Karmapa, and it is therefore not acceptable to use this prophetic vision in this sense. The text also does not specify which incarnation of Situ Rinpoche is meant or whether he is the 17th Karmapa's Guru or disciple.

The only one who can fulfill the conditions of such a vision is the Gyalwa Karmapa himself. It is not a correct procedure to first create circumstances so that they accord with the description given in the prophecy, and to then use the prophecy as a proof that the circumstances are authentic.

If the vision describes the activity, of the reincarnation of the 16th Gyalwa Karmapa together with Tai Situ Rinpoche it is something that will happen in the future, only after the Gyalwa Karmapa unquestionably reveals himself. The 16th Gyalwa Karmapa, Rangjung Rigpai Dorje and the 11th Situ Rinpoche, Pema Wangchuk Gyalpo, had a close teacher-disciple relationship, but this is not mentioned in Chogyur Lingpa's words predicting the activity of the 16th Karmapa.

The 16th Karmapa and the 11th Situ Rinpoche once met in Litang, East Tibet, at the Mahakala lake with nearby pinetrees and rocky mountains. There they exchanged the Mahamoudra view - their minds mixed as one. Then His Holiness left footprints on. the rocks. Both the 16th Karmapa and the 11th Situ Rinpoche confirmed this event as fulfilling the conditions of Chogyur Lingpa's prophecy, thus counting Rangjung Rigpai Dorje as the 17th Karmapa.

It is important to point out that technically the 16th incarnation of the Karmapa can be counted as either the 16th or the 17th : one Karmapa incarnation between the 14th , Thegchog DorJe, and the 15th , Khakhyab Dorje, died very young and is therefore not always counted. This fact is even mentioned in the biography of Chogyur Lingpa. In the prophecy of the 5th Karmapa, the 16th Karmapa is also referred to as either the 16th or the 17th .

This leaves the prophecy open for interpretation. it could refer to the previous Situ Rinpoche, it could refer to the present Situ Rinpoche or it could even be the next. This is not specified. Only the future unfolding of events will indicate this. But first and most important, doubts about the Karmapa incarnation have to be clarified and dispelled.