Year 1993 - situation deteriorates in Rumtek
Internal situation in Rumtek
Internal situation in Rumtek
A new "administration"
The situation in Rumtek was more complex. Evidently, since the reconstructed board of trustees had no legal power, all resolutions adopted by this body and the assembly itself, such as the resolution removing Topga Rinpoche from his office in Rumtek, were null and void.
However, Tai Situ and Gyaltsab felt
that the courts and laws were one thing, but here in Rumtek they needn't
worry about such trivialities. Indifferent to the fact that they were
breaking the country's law, they set about installing their new administrators.
The government in Gangtok, no doubt fully aware of the proceedings, did
not react to this obvious breach of their civil code and the violation
of the monks' rights.
The immediate consequence of the
assembly's resolutions for the monastery was then the removal by Situpa's
party of the old team that had run Rumtek since 1982. The new management
was composed of characters that had been dismissed from Karmapa's seat
either by Topga Rinpoche or by Karmapa himself. The new secretary, Tenzin
Namgyal, had been relieved from his official duties within the administration
in 1988. The newly appointed assistant secretary, Lodro Tharchin, had
been personally asked to leave Rumtek by His Holiness in 1971. He had
then taken up a job with the Dharamsala government where he did not hide
his animosity towards his former benefactors.
The Nectar of Dharma, a newsletter
that was published out of Rumtek from January 1983, would run, in its
first issue, a detailed account of the international assembly. It would
also include two stories on the life achievements of the above civil servants,
the new "governors in Rumtek." Tactfully, it would omit their
former removal from the place. The title of the publication was, in fact,
a direct copy of a circular that had been coming out of Karmapa's main
center since 1981. Slowly, the new administration began to take over Rumtek's
good name and its resources.
The Rumtek monks, however, were unmoved
and refused to accept Topgala's dismissal. Since the resolutions had not
been approved by the Karmapa Charitable Trust, they did not hand over
the keys to the monastery's office. As a result, Rumtek settled into the
reality of having two administrations.
The legal one, composed of Topgala's
team, kept on performing the daily duties and the task of running the
place. It lacked a head though, as the General Secretary was still strongly
discouraged by the government from entering Sikkim and had been lately
turned away from the Sikkimese border and sent back to Bhutan. And then
the new group, composed of the appointed secretary and his two assistants,
who kept themselves busy holding meetings and writing petitions, trying
their best to obstruct the work of the lawful custodians.
The effort to bring Urgyen Trinley
to Rumtek, at least on the surface, hadn't been abandoned. The two regents
insisted that preparations in Tibet were in full swing and that they were
holding constructive talks with the Chinese government on the issue. An
"Organizing Committee for Enthronement of H.H. the 17th Karmapa"
established itself in a woman's house in the village. In no time, the
place became the nest of illicit activity directed against the monastery.
Having no access to Rumtek's office, the new secretary, assisted by his
two deputies, set up quarters on the "Committee's" premises.
They somehow got hold of Karmapa's legal stationary and began posting
letters to all Kagyu centers world-wide, giving the wrong impression that
Rumtek had finally recognized the child in Tsurphu. Very appropriately,
Karmapa's monks named that particular residence "The Chinese Embassy."
Three months later, on the 21st of
March '93, in order to clarify the issue of
the "second administration," Kunzig Shamarpa would distribute
an official statement. In a letter sent to the Kagyu centers, the regent
stressed that Rumtek continued to function as before. The Karmapa Charitable
Trust was the lawful body representing the lineage, and the monk community
followed decisions made by the Trust alone. The illicit effort to dissolve
the Trust as a means to claim Rumtek and Karmapa's property failed. Rinpoche
asked all disciples to be aware of the above and for future contacts with
Rumtek to continue writing to the Karmapa Trust. This was one more open
letter that Shamar Rinpoche would release during the years of the crisis,
and we certainly welcomed his ever-bolder words.
The next immediate concern was the
fate of the Black Crown and the whereabouts of the lineage's relics which
the 16th Karmapa had managed to bring out of Tibet. If Tai Situ and Gyaltsab
Rinpoche were to have their say, they would probably carry the relics
back to Tsurphu. That would, of course, mean the loss of these unique
articles. The Communists would never again let them slip out of their
hands. We had to make sure the lineage's possessions remained in Rumtek.
For the moment they seemed to be kept under lock and key by the monks.
But the arrangement was far from secure. Since Tai Situ's present bid
to take over Rumtek and Karmapa's property had failed, it's possible that
the regent, further pressed to deliver the relics to Tibet, would not
hesitate to use less refined methods to do so.
and shedra at that time
By Khenpo Choedrak Rinpoche
Extract of the Kagyu conference Delhi
) Even in 1992, when the troubles
erupted, the Junior Khenpos and myself strenuously tried to improve the
situation and to carry on work at the Nalanda Institute. The Shedra's
chairman during this period was Kunzig Shamar Rinpoche. He told us that,
as far as the Karmapa issue was concerned, politics was involved and that
the principal Rinpoches would have to sort this problem out. He said that
we, on the other hand, were in charge of Buddhist studies. The teachers'
job was to teach the Buddhist texts, and the students' job was to study.
That was all. Shamar Rinpoche said that we should not take sides, but
simply run the Institute. He also said that he would continue to provide
us with food.
In accordance with Kunzig Shamar
Rinpoche's advice, we carried on with our work. Even though we tried to
do our best, the Institute wasn't running as successfully as before. Things
became more and more difficult. One reason was that some of the students
were receiving, money from the other side; with the result that they didn't
attend the classes any more, didn't keep proper discipline and didn't
listen when we tried to talk to them. Nevertheless, we carried on with
our work at the Institute and managed to cope with the situation in 1992.
In 1993, however, the other side
systematically divided the monks in the Shedra and the monks in the Monastery.
They created friction between them. This was one issue. On top of that
they threatened the Shedra teachers who wished to continue, intimidating
them by distributing sheets of paper saying for example: "We'll kill
you! We'll beat you up!". I am not making this up - these things
really happened. As the monks told us yesterday, one of the Institute's
teachers was even stabbed.
Then, in 1993, on the birthday of
Urgyen Trinley, Gyaltsab Rinpoche came to the Shedra and organised a party.
He said that from now on it would be enough for the monks just to wear
their robes. He told the monks that from now on they could do whatever
they wanted. From that point on, discipline at the Institute collapsed:
many of the students didn't study any more and didn't abide by the rules.
At that stage there were two kinds
of people in the Institute: those students who really wished to continue
with their studies, and those who didn't study any longer. There were
many who were hanging around and disturbing the classes. To make matters
worse, in 1993 about 32 new students were recruited. The point is that
these new "students" did not study, did not follow any monastic
discipline and in fact were not even able to lead a normal life in the
world. They were brought in from Bhutan and other countries, and most
of them had some kind of criminal background.
These new "students" wore
monks' robes, but that was all. They were fake monks. They were told that
they didn't need to bother about any rules, they didn't need to study.
They were told that they would be provided with food and with a pleasant
place to live. They were also paid for staying there. So the tensions
mounted, with the result that those students who wished to continue their
studies simply left. They couldn't stay any more, because life in the
Shedra had become extremely difficult. Some of them are staying here in
K.I.B.I. and continuing their studies here, while others joined the Shedra
of Penor Rinpoche. Moreover, where the teaching staff was concerned, there
were several qualified teachers who had been asked to teach at the Nalanda
Institute by the Karmapa Charitable Trust. Most of these Khenpos had to
leave as well. It was impossible for them to stay on.
Hence, among the student body only
those without the slightest interest in studying stayed. As for the teachers,
suddenly students who had been unable to reach the required standards
and had failed and had to repeat classes were installed as teachers. They
were simply given the title of a teacher. It was just like a stage play.
Evidently they are not qualified teachers. I am not making this up. It
really happened, and my colleagues, all of the young Khenpos present here,
are aware of it. They know what those who now act as teachers were like
as students. The Shedra is not functioning any more at all. It is true
to say that the Shedra is a fake; the other side is merely pretending
to run the Shedra.
letter about dealings in Rumtek
Most of the so-called letters of
protest that reached our centers were distasteful attacks against "Shamarpa
and his gang," This one, however, was in unusual contrast to the
streams of abuse pouring from Tai Situ's side. The author, Samdup Tsering,
was a newcomer to the scene. His name and rather chaotic style pointed
to a Tibetan, although the letters had been nicely copied on white paper
and sent out from Europe.
His words were a rebuke of Tai Situ
and Gyaltsab Rinpoche's illicit actions against the Rumtek monks and The
Karmapa Charitable Trust. Now, Tsering sharpened his pen and was back
with another summary from Asia. His article made interesting reading,
and witness confirmed many of the assertions.
Situ Rinpoche was apparently still
fooling himself and others that Urgyen Trinley's arrival in Rumtek was
just a matter of weeks away. If at that time the lama continued to believe
in his own claims, Tsering couldn't really say, but he could definitely
certify that Rinpoche, on tour through Southeast Asia, had managed to
raise considerable funds towards that purpose. His attendant, though,
was said to have been cheated out of a good part of that money in a black
market transaction in Delhi; the dollar figure mentioned was six digit.
Another rumor had it that Rinpoche lost even more on a land purchase operation
in Delhi. On top of this, his financial backers from Nepal were said to
be trading in tiger bones and antelope hair, both endangered species close
It was now important to clarify Tenga
Rinpoche's stand to the European students. This time, Shamar Rinpoche
took the task of defining the intricate behavior of a fellow Tibetan lama
to a Western audience. Shamarpa's letter made it to our groups in central
Europe. Rinpoche presented the situation in allegorical terms. He quoted
the Tibetan fable of the lion and the elephant, which illustrated very
well the election process of the 17th Karmapa.
The lion and the elephant both wanted
to be king of the animals. The lion declared that the elephant's eyes
were too small for such a serious task. He roared and showed his big teeth.
Only he could protect the animals. Obviously, they needed witnesses to
settle the issue. They summoned the tiger, who at once agreed that the
lion was by far the best suited to the job. But then, somebody had to
be witness for the tiger. And so the buffalo was called in and witnessed
for the tiger, and the pig witnessed for the buffalo, and in this fashion
down to the tiniest flea. The final decision that the lion was to be king
of the animals was then made by a flea.
In similar style, "Situ Rinpoche
proceeded to create his own verification. His actions were supported by
Gyaltsab Rinpoche. Situ Rinpoche and Gyaltsab Rinpoche were both supported
by Bokar Rinpoche and other lamas. Their actions were again supported
and given credence by their students. So, in fact, Gyalwa Karmapa is now
being recognized by ordinary followers."
The issue is not how many Rinpoches
declared the letter to be true, Shamarpa argued. As if the letter would
become any more genuine if, for instance, Jamgon Rinpoche had given his
approval, as Tai Situ claimed. Such reasoning knocked the whole thing
off track. The core of the problem was whether the signature was authentic
As a Tibetan, the senior regent knew
well the situation of the lamas. He understood that they had to act in
accordance with the political status quo of the region. Having monasteries
in Tibet, they were responsible for their people in the occupied country.
If they wanted to visit their old places and preserve their positions,
they had no choice but to follow the Chinese line. Such points might be
difficult to accept for people with a free, democratic background, Shamarpa
admitted, but the lamas were bound by traditional, Asian rules and the
current political realities.
Regarding the authenticity of Karmapa's
present incarnation, Shamar Rinpoche pledged that he himself would rely
only on the genuine instructions left by His Holiness. The important point
was to patiently wait for the emergence of these instructions. Soliciting
approval from other lamas, however many they might be, would prove nothing.
Shamar Rinpoche left little doubt that he would only follow Karmapa's
real commands and that he certainly didn't consider the letter, presented
by Tai Situ, to fall into this noble category.
Excerpts from " Siege of Karmapa
" , testimony brought forth by Rumtek's monks
)The bizarre developments
continued. In February 1993, a white maruti-suzuki car with three people
on board made a surreptitious entrance to Rumtek monastery. Situ Rinpoche
appeared from the car and looked somewhat disgruntled. To our surprise,
for several days he remained in Rumtek without contacting anyone and in
the evenings he would be seen looking out from the roof of the monastery.
As we later found out, Situ Rinpoche
had flown from Hong Kong to Calcutta, carrying 25 kilograms of gold. When
the customs Officers discovered the smuggled gold at the airport, Situ
Rinpoche displayed his Bhutanese diplomatic passport. He claimed the gold
belonged to the Royal Government of Bhutan, however the customs officers
wanted a more convincing explanation. Situ Rinpoche then asked to see
the Bhutanese customs officer and convinced him to believe the phoney
story. He also claimed that the bag was actually his attendant's and quickly
left for Sikkim.
One of his attendants was left behind
with the bag to act as guarantor. Later on, we heard the issue was settled
with Situ Rinpoche having to give up the gold. In spite of this, for years
he was successful at smuggling million dollar quantities of gold. With
this he bribed and purchased favours from politicians, officers and friends
After a long time, we discovered additional information about the incident at Calcutta Airport. Apparently the Bhutanese customs officer was unsure of what to do. He contacted the General Secretary, Topga Rinpoche, who was staying in Calcutta at the time. For reasons unknown to us, Topga Rinpoche told them to help Situ Rinpoche. If he had not done this, Situ Rinpoche would have been in jail. We were very disappointed to hear this as we felt that his imprisonment would have helped to prevent the attack on Rumtek in August 1993.
"Siege of Karmapa" (
Among Situ and Gyaltsab Rinpoche's most loyal friends
stood the Sikkim "Joint Action Committee". The two Rinpoches
managed to rake relentless support from this weighty group of politicians.
As will be shown, this powerful group was able to step up pressure on
the Chief Minister of Sikkim. This was due to their control of thirteen
seats in the legislative assembly of the State. Aware of this fact, the
Joint Action Committee called on the Chief Minister to help them take
over Rumtek Monastery.
For that purpose, the infamous group of politicians
expropriated the "Kunga Delek Guest House )5 Just across from the
monastery. Here they set up an illegal office cum meeting place where
free food handouts were offered to visitors. Once here, the visitor would
also be fed with information about how corrupt the administration was
and how everyone should just listen to Situ and Gyaltsab Rinpoches. Frequent
guests were 42 new students from Bhutan. We later discovered that these
students had been hired by Situ and Gyaltsab Rinpoches to join the monastery's
Nalanda Institute. Also at this place, the outside. "guests"
of the two Rinpoches would wine and dine at their pleasure. Later on they
would be seen in the monastery shoving around the monks and residents
of the Rumtek village.
We could now see what plan had been laid out. The Chief Minister was prepared to help in a coup to overtake Rumtek. However, he needed an excuse so that the police could "intervene" and chase us out. A big fight would have provided the perfect excuse and a public function was the perfect environment for this. As the winter Lama Dances loomed, the Rumtek monk community decided to cancel the public function.
We only held a small ceremony outside the old Rumtek
monastery. Despite this fact, during the ceremony as the procession was
ending, 8 vehicles filled with members of the Lal-Bazaar gang arrived.
They were carrying knives and iron chains and tried to disrupt the ceremony.
Some of the Rumtek village boys fought back.
After this incident, it was reported that the Chief Minister said that such a fight was "not good enough" to take over the monastery. However, he had no choice but to respond to the pressure stepped up by the powerful "committee". For the monks of Rumtek monastery, a storm ready to unleash its destructive power seemed imminent.
In June 1993, Shamar Rinpoche was still the Principal
of Karmae Shri Nalanda Institute, the college at Rumtek. While Shamar
Rinpoche was in residence at his bungalow, Gyaltsab Rinpoche took to inciting
students. Through talks he encouraged them to break the discipline of
the Institute. As a result, a dance party was thrown in the college, to
celebrate the Chinese candidate's birthday. At the insistence of Shamar
Rinpoche, the police were called in the next day.
Shamar Rinpoche then gave a lecture to the college
students reminding them that they were not monks of Rumtek and therefore
they should not interfere in any monastery matters. He said they were
here to study and enjoy the facilities that were provided to them for
free. A police officer, Mr. Sundar, also scolded the students by telling
them to behave. (Not long after, Mr Sundar was transferred, evidencing
the active interest being taken by the government of Mr Bhandari at the
time) After the lecture, Shamar Rinpoche asked the students to sign papers
whereby they either agreed to uphold the college rules or not. It was
discovered that the 42 new Bhutanese students had signed the paper refusing
to uphold the rules.
Shamar Rinpoche sent this list of signatures to the
Minister of Education in Bhutan asking him to remove these offenders from
the college. The Bhutanese Minister said that the government could not
recall them as the students were now in India and beyond their jurisdiction.
Ironically, he then thanked Shamar Rinpoche for the list, as the whereabouts
of these people was now known. He admitted that a number of these "students"
were convicted criminals and some had escaped from Bhutan.
As some students still continued to misbehave, neglect
studies, quarrel and create chaos in general, classes were cancelled.
To our horror, Trinley Dorje, a student from Sonada monastery, stabbed
Sonam Tsering, a junior Khenpo who had the courage to reprimand him. Although
a FIR was lodged with the police, no legal action was taken against him.
He was granted bail on surety provided by Kunzang Sherab, President of
the Joint Action committee. Kunzang Sherab took Trinley Dorje to his residence
and kept him there. This student was later seen moving around Gangtok
The situation seemed out of control by July 1993. The Nalanda Institute was declared closed by its director, Shamar Rinpoche, and the students were instructed to leave for their homes before August Ist. On July 22nd , Shamar Rinpoche left for Europe to visit his seriously ill mother. Rumours were then heard of a fight being organised against the Rumtek monks. By this stage some of the college students had left but the 42 troublemakers remained. Neither Shamar Rinpoche nor the monks wanted to go ahead with the Summer Retreat because of the plan being hatched.
However, as we knew that Situ and Gyaltsab Rinpoches had decided to go ahead with it, we had no choice but to remain in the monastery. We prayed for the ordeal to finish. Unfortunately, as we were to realise, the worst was yet to come. On July 25, Lodro Tharchin, a resident of Dharamsala who had come to Rumtek to help Situ and Gyaltsab Rinpoches, returned to his home. The rumour was that he had gone to Dharamsala to bring Situ Rinpoche to Rumtek for something. On the 30th, Situ Rinpoche arrived.
" Siege of Karmapa "
On August 2nd 1993, the ceremony of "Yarne"
(oath taking day for the summer retreat) was being held. Throughout this
ceremony, four monks at a time take the oath from the Abbot and it must
be completed by midday. During Yarne, only those taking the monk's oath
are allowed to be present in the monastery, as this is a very sacred event.
Situ and Gyaltsab Rinpoches wanted to make Yarne
a public programme. They had organised a very large group of people to
come to the monastery. When the first groups started arriving, the monWs
committee decided the function would not be held in the prayer hall. We
then locked the doors of the main prayer hall. With the active participation
of the Sikkim police, the large group marched into the monastery with
the intention of seizing it. As the thugs from Lal-Bazaar arrived, they
demanded to know why the prayer hall was closed, as they wanted to enter
it. When our senior monks told Situ Rinpoche's invitees to leave the monastery,
they became hostile. They and members of the crowd made rampant false
allegations, physically assaulted us and demanded the keys to the prayer
When the keys were not given, Ngedon Tenzin, Master
of Rituals, had his robe tied around his neck. His arms were stretched
and while they tightened the robe, he began to choke. The mob then dragged
him mercilessly through the courtyard of the monastery. Unable to bear
it any longer, the monks who had the keys were forced to surrender them.
They were then cruelly beaten. Even our young monks were threatened at
gunpoint and slapped by the police officers and the ruthless crowd. Some
of our monks had chilli powder thrown into their eyes. The police said
they would take our injured monks to hospital. What they actually did
was take them to Gangtok and throw them into prison.
Simultaneously, Situ and Gyaltsab Rinpoches, donning
ceremonial yellow robes, were seated in front of the main door of the
prayer hall. They chanted peacefully, apparently oblivious to their pious
followers who were beating and assaulting us. The Chief Secretary of the
Government of Sikkim, Mr. Sonam Wangdi, then illegally confiscated the
key to the prayer hall.
When the doors were opened, with folded hands and
wet eyes, Situ and Gyaltsab Rinpoches led the procession and paid obeisance
to the holy images inside the temple.
Since the events of August 2nd , we, the legitimate
monks of Rumtek have been living away from the monastery. We were forced
out of Gyalwa Karmapa's monastery and have been living under difficult
conditions at Shamar Rinpoche's bungalow. To this day we have not been
able to return to our monastery.
On reflection, Situ and Gyaltsab Rinpoches had obviously been prepared to ruin this sacred event in order to take over the monastery.
The day that they summoned the public to the monastery
was absurd. As stated, traditionally no one except the monks participating
in the Yarne ceremony are allowed on the premises. Therefore, the posters
they had placed in Gangtok advertising a public programme, were totally
against monastery protocol. The conflict that occurred on Yarne was just
the excuse the Government of Sikkim required to support Situ and Gyaltsab
Rinpoches' takeover of the monastery.
The chaos that ensued on this day is a terrible blight
on Buddha's tradition and these high Lamas who are supposed to represent
The following day, while the remaining monks were
dining in the hall, followers of Tai Situ and Gyaltsabpa, accompanied
by policemen, burst into the room and put a picture of Urgyen Trinley
high on a shelf. The monks were ordered at gunpoint to bow down to the
photograph and swear an oath that the boy was the true Karmapa. They were
told that anyone who dared deny that fact would face legal consequences.
Thereafter, the policemen collected a wide assortment of kitchen knives
and wood cutting tools and, laying the utensils on a table, ordered the
monks to stand next to it. An officer proceeded to take pictures of the
scene. Such assembled evidence would later be used against the monastery
and its legitimate caretakers as proof of their aggressive schemes.
In the wake of the events from August 2, the monastery's
inhabitants were chased away from their quarters, their possessions were
stolen, and their rooms were locked or taken over by outsiders. They were
no longer allowed to enter the temple. Having no other place to go, they
took shelter in Kunzig Shamarpa's residence. Over one hundred and seventy
monks, nearly the whole Rumtek monastic community, fled to Rinpoche's
house a mile away from the cloister itself. At that time Shamarpa did
not know of their plight. The conditions were difficult. The place obviously
wasn't made to accommodate such a large number of individuals. They were
lacking the basic facilities and there was little hope of continuing with
their studies and monastic duties. Their long ordeal of being outcasts
from their own monastery had begun.
Complicities in Sikkim
Situpa and Gyaltsab had again managed to deliver
a coup. While the whole Sikkimese political establishment looked appropriately
the other way, the two regents had brutally and illegally assumed control
of Karmapa's property. The Martangs, not able to forget the exclusion
of Gyaton, their dubious tulku son, from Rumtek in 1983 and still nourishing
the hope that their offspring might be sitting one day high on a Rumtek
throne, readily lent Tai Situ a helping hand. There was little doubt anymore
that Gangtok's highest politicians were also involved. Chief Minister
Bhandari, who had ruled the Himalayan enclave with an iron fist for the
past fourteen years, put his unlimited resources at the two Rinpoches'
disposal. The local police, rather than protecting the victims, took it
upon themselves to harass and in some cases even physically maltreat the
helpless monks. One could have been excused for thinking that the regents
were, in actual fact, the new police commissioners, for the officers only
responded to their orders. It was a well-known secret in Sikkim, that
Bhandari and his cronies had been handsomely rewarded for their services.
During the next days, Tai Situ and his party launched
a full scale campaign to portray themselves as the victims of the monks'
aggression and the sole defenders of Karmapa's legacy.
Shamarpa was being depicted as the main instigator of the violence. A letter addressed to the senior regent and signed by a large collection of individuals from all walks of life in Sikkim accused him of bringing disgrace to everything from Buddhist robes to the holy Buddhist scriptures.
The Gangtok press, controlled by the Bhandari regime,
went along with the assailants. "Cops Quell Querulous Clergy,"
claimed a prominent headline in The Courier of Sikkim. The querulous clergy
were, as to be expected, the Rumtek monks. Photographs of a stockpile
of bricks, weapons, and other implements were freely used in these editions.
The Delhi newspapers, giving the incident a certain amount of attention,
were fairly objective in their assessment. "Pro-China Coup in Gangtok
Monastery," read an article in The Hindustan Times. Sharing a border
with Chinese-controlled Tibet, Sikkim was a strategically sensitive region
for India, and the slightest hint of Red China gaining a foothold in the
enclave was cause for immediate alarm in the Indian capital. Whether knowingly
or not, Situ Rinpoche was walking a thin line, and his flirtation with
Beijing would soon come to haunt him.
To legitimize their occupation of Rumtek, the regents
enlisted the help of a variety of organizations from Gangtok. In their
resolution from August 13, the Sikkim Tribal Youth Association, the Sikkim
Tribal Women Association, and other such societies strongly condemned
what they defined as a "sabotage of religious functions" by
a "handful of monks." According to the document signed by a
total of eight groups, "a large number of devotees" had been
prevented on the 2nd of August by a small gang of monks from receiving
a blessing. One also learned that the law enforcement agencies later discovered
a stash of lethal weapons that the same handful of monks had stored with
the intention of causing harm to the devotees. The outraged activists
were of course strongly condemning such actions as "being mischievous,
unwarranted, and with ulterior motive." They also disclosed that
the above acts were inspired by "foreign elements" with "vested
interests" and called upon the State Government to confiscate all
property of the foreigners involved. This was seen as pointing to Topga
Rinpoche who was holding a Bhutanese passport. However, the participants
were seemingly not aware that both Situ and Gyalatsab travelled on diplomatic
documents issued by the same country. Finally, the delegates resolved
to confront all the foreign inspired manipulators and formed an Action
Committee for that purpose.
The Action Committee became a noisy group that would
apply pressure in a most distasteful way on anyone who would dare dispute
Situpa's letter and his candidate. Soon after its formation, the committee
members staged a loud protest in front of Gangtok High Court against a
petition filed by a group of distinguished Sikkimese men, followers of
the 16th Karmapa, to have the contested letter scientifically examined.
As tempers rose, the crowd got somewhat out of hand and proceeded en masse
to the home of one of the trustees of the Karmapa Charitable Trust, Mr.
Sherab Gyaltsen. In the ensuing riotous demonstration, windows were broken
and the family abused. On the way to Rumtek, the aroused protesters called
on the home of one of the signatories of the petition. More incidents
of slogan shouting and stone pelting followed.
For many years, we, the official and original monks
of the Dharma Chakra Centre of the Karma Kagyu lineage in Sikkim, India,
did our very best to fulfil the wishes and instructions of H.H. the 16th
Gyalwa Karmapa. Either by prayers, meditation retreats, pursuing studies
or serving His Holiness in general, we devoted our lives to carrying out
his aspirations to the best of our ability. We continue to do this, because
we have come to a clear conviction: To follow the Dharma is the ultimate
refuge and the final goal to which all beings should aspire.
After H.H. the 16th Gyalwa Karmapa passed away, we
continued pursuing our duties as followers and monks of Gyalwa Karmapa.
At all times we respected and trusted Shamar, Situ, jarngon Kongtrul and
Gyaltsab Rinpoches as traditional spiritual leaders. To find the true
incarnation of H.H. the 17th Gyalwa Karmapa was the responsibility of
these Rinpoches. The duty of everybody was to practice the Dharma and
pray for his swift return.
Even when the polarization amongst the principal
Rinpoches occurred, we took an impartial stand. We are the monks of His
Holiness Gyalwa Karmapa, not Situ and Gyaltsab Rinpoches. However, after
1992 we were astonished to be pushed aside and evicted from our own monastery
by very hostile people invited by Situ and Gyaltsab Rinpoches. As a consequence,
the administration and the Sangha Duche (the monk community of Rumtek)
tried in vain to protect Rumtek Monastery as His Holiness' main seat.
As monks, we had little to do with worldly matters.
When the conflict broke out we could not understand the politician's motives
for our monastery. Since they held high positions, we thought they would
behave in a proper manner. We were not practiced in lying, slandering
or blackmailing. We had not experienced the cold damp of a jail cell and
knew nothing about gang fights or murder. The painstaking procedures of
a court case, accusing others and being accused, were also unfamiliar
to us. However, we all knew that what was happening was totally wrong.
After our forcible ouster, we made numerous appeals
for assistance. We asked the people of the Himalayas, the Karma Kagyu
monasteries in the region and Dharma centres around the world, to assist
us in returning to our monastery. Unfortunately, despite efforts of the
legal Rumtek administration and many others, the appeals have so far failed.
To date this issue does not get the attention it deserves.
Bullies in Rumtek
After the take-over, Rumtek had changed beyond recognition.
Hiding in Shamarpa's house, the resident monks were banned from the monastery's
grounds. A number of suspicious characters dressed in robes were brought
to the cloister to take their place. The ritual, chant, and discipline
masters were all dismissed, but the new appointees had obvious difficulties
in applying their skills. How many of the fresh arrivals were genuine
monks was a question that nobody in the village dared or cared to ask.
People were forced to sign pledges of loyalty, petitions, and denunciations.
A minority who tried to stay merely neutral was blacklisted and immediately
harassed by the police. The local officers in the nearby station in Ranipool
saw it as their holy duty to re-educate the less enthusiastic supporters
of Urgyen Trinley. The Namgyals and a handful of other families who openly
stayed loyal to Kunzig Shamarpa were persecuted.
As for Tai Situ, his secret involvement with Communist
China was no secret in India anymore. The regent's alliance with Beijing
and his aggressive campaign to bring Urgyen Trinley to Sikkim were viewed
with a good deal of concern at the highest governmental level in Delhi.
Probably at Situpa's urging, Bhandari himself took up the matter of the
Tsurphu boy with the Indian ministers, but his request to allow the child
to enter Sikkim, even for a brief visit, was firmly turned down. China
was the only nation that hadn't recognized India's sovereignty over Sikkim,
and the mere thought of having a Communist appointed Karmapa, a Chinese
citizen, residing in Rumtek or shuttling between Tsurphu and Gangtok made
the Indian politicians shudder with discomfort. At that point, he would
be drawing dangerously close to claiming his property in Sikkim as Chinese.
Situpa's amateurish overtures with Beijing and his dabbling in the delicate
Sikkimese politics had raised eyebrows more than once in the Indian capital.
Now, Delhi was getting seriously tired of their restless guest.
To add to Situpa's troubles, Beijing wasn't in the
least disposed to let their Karmapa out of the country. Having won a powerful
asset in their design to split the Tibetans, the Communists lost interest
in Situ Rinpoche. He would soon discover the once friendly doors in the
Chinese capital to be closed. Blind to the political realities, the regent
wouldn't give up.
Following his assurances, enterprising committees from Woodstock in the U.S. to Samye Ling in Scotland and Gangtok in Sikkim were busy urging devotees to furnish the soon-to-happen official enthronement of Urgyen Trinley outside China. A letter by Tenzin Chonyi to the "dear dharma friends" explained that all shared the joy of the recognition and that most likely in early 1994 His Holiness would grace Woodstock with his presence. A total of two hundred thousand dollars was necessary to prepare the visit. Tenzin's "vision" was that everybody should contribute a mere thousand dollars.
KIBI, March 20,1994
Khenpo Chodrak Tenphel received his education under the direct guidance of The 16th Karmapa. He is one of the main teachers at the Nalanda University of Rumtek Monastery and at The Karmapa International Buddhist Institute (KIBI) in New Delhi which is under the direction of Shamarr Rinpoche.
Question : How can one understand the obvious
discrepancy between the qualities of a tulku (consciously reborn being)
as described in the texts, and the behavior of some tulkus during this
current controversy of the recognition of Karmapa?
Khenpo Chodrak : The way the Dhanna was spread in
the West -especially the style of practice and people's opinion about
the Dharma - is based on how it was presented in the beginning. It gave
the impression that tulkus did not have any disturbing feelings and that
they were always on one of the bodhisattva levels. People also think that
bodhisattvas and tulkus cannot make any mistakes. But actually it is very
difficult to be a true bodhisattva, and I think that not all tulkus are
In different sutras, and also in connection with
the Vajrayana, the Buddha emphasized again and again how important it
is to check the character and the qualities of a lama. It might be that
among the lamas who teach and have taught in the West, there are many
who are true bodhisattvas and many who are not.
Those who travel around and teach, but who are not
real bodhisattvas, have to "sell" themselves. When one has a
product, one has to advertise in order to attract a buyer. When one pretends
to be a bodhisattva without really being one, he has to do a lot of things
in order to attract people. For example, there has been a lot of talk
that someone is an emanation of Chenrezi, Manjushri or other Buddhas in
order to give them a stronger standing. It is especially important for
people who start practicing Dharma to have a close look at their teacher
and to check his qualities, which is quite simple.
If it is obvious that the main motivations of the
teacher are to make money and to have a good reputation, then it is better
to keep distance, even if one has already received teachings from him.
But one should also not speak badly about him. Concerning this, one should
not get too extreme, because a teacher is a human being, like everybody
else, and has to make a living. One should stay away when it is obvious
that the teacher's craving for money and status is unusually high.
Many lamas have to support various projects, monasteries
and the people in those monasteries, and therefore receive donations.
If one sees that the donations, on the other hand, are only used for selfish
purposes, this is another reason to keep a distance.
One's orientation should simply be on the meaning of the word: bodhisattva. To be a bodhisattva means to serve mankind. If one does not do that, one cannot be called a true bodhisattva.
Question : What about the great bodhisattvas,
like Situ Rinpoche, who were acknowledged and confirmed by Karmapa, and
who had been bodhisattvas in their former lives? How can their current
way of acting be understood? Shouldn't there exist a kind of "guarantee"
by Karmapa's acknowledgment?
Khenpo Chodrak : It is for certain that Karmapa is
never wrong and that he acknowledged Situ Rinpoche as a bodhisattva. When
one looks at Situ Rinpoche and at what he is currently doing, then it
is also clear that his actions concerning this matter are not in line
with the Dharma. The way he acts contributed to the fact that Rumtek monastery
was more or less damaged and destroyed. Thus, he caused damage to his
own root-lama's monastery. One can look at this from every possible angle
:it is not in correspondence with the Dharma.
This question can also be answered by referring to
the Diamond Way: Vajrayana is a very delicate matter because it has such
huge potential. When this potential is used in the right way, this is
very positive. But if it is misused, it can be very dangerous. It is comparable
to nuclear energy: utilized for peaceful purposes, it is useful, but as
a nuclear bomb it is a disaster.
The dangers of the Diamond Way lie in the samayas,
the Vajrayana vows. Once one receives them - for example in connection
with an empowerment - one has to keep them. Certainly Situ Rinpoche received
empowerments from Karmapa and, as he was a very close student, he probably
also received the samayas that are connected with them. After Karmapa's
death, Situ Rinpoche spent a lot of time with people who had broken their
bonds with Karmapa and had always been working against him. Lodro Tarchin,
who Situ Rinpoche installed as the secretary in Rumtek, is known to have
broken his connection with Karmapa long ago. Another case: the Nyerpa,
treasurer of Gyaltsap Rinpoche, started a lawsuit against Karmapa at that
time in Tibet.
Especially the activity for the benefit of all beings does not function anymore. If an atom bomb explodes, the whole country is destroyed. It is similar with the Diamond Way if one does not have the right conduct.
Question : You explained before, that from
the first bodhisattva level on, one is not able to break the samayas connected
with empowerments anymore. For a great Bodhisattva like Tai Situ Rinpoche,
isn't that the case?
Khenpo Chodrak : If the influence of people who broke
their samayas is very strong, it can influence a bodhisattva to the extent
that it affects his own realization. This morning I read the life story
of Doe Khyentse Yeshe Dorje. He once had visions of dakinis and of Guru
Rinpoche who told him to practice in a certain cave in East Tibet. And
by doing this, he would realize the rainbow body within one lifetime.
He then started with his travel arrangements.
Two of his servants kept their vows, a third one did not. It was obvious to Doe Khyentse, that the third servant should not travel with him, and he tried everything possible to hold him back. He gave him presents and told him it would be better for him if he stayed at home. But the servant could not be convinced and wanted to practice there under all circumstances. It is said that Doe Khyentse Yeshe Dorje, who is regarded as the emanation of the great Kunzig Jigme Lingpa, did not attain the appropriate realization because of that person who disturbed his development.
Question : Can a bodhisattva, through broken
Vajrayana samayas, lose the qualities that he has developed informer lives?
Khenpo Chodrak : The realization cannot be lost, however, further development is impaired.
Question : Why can something like that not
happen to Karmapa himself
Khenpo Chodrak : Because Kannapa's realization exceeds everybody's and he is above it all. In a text of the first Pawo Rinpoche, a meeting with a Mahasiddha is reported in which the Mahasiddha tells that Karmapa and he once developed the enlightened mind together. But the difference between the two is that Karmapa has been acting exclusively for the benefit of all beings. The Mahasiddha did all sorts of different things -like using Diamond Way practices for his own benefit. Karmapa, on the other hand, never made a single mistake since then. Nevertheless, when Karmapa's students break their samayas, it can impair Karmapa's activity. The 15th Karmapa, Khakyab Dorje, prophesized that he would become 84 years old, but he died at the age of 52 due to the broken samayas of his students.
Question : If a tulku is not a bodhisattva,
what does the title "tulku "mean?
Khenpo Chodrak : Political tulkus are not bodhisattvas.
(Rinpoche laughs.) There are many cases in Tibet where tulku titles were
awarded and do not mean anything. The boy in Tsurphu holds the title "Karmapa"
because he was installed as such.
The present situation in Tibet and China is nothing
new. The Chinese had already selected certain children for political reasons
and granted them high tulku titles. Therefore, they [the Chinese] gained
influence, the people trusted the lamas and the Chinese government could
control the Tibetans. In the time of the Chinese Emperor Ching Long, a
tradition existed in which a golden vase was shaken with the names of
the adequate children inside. One or two were picked, and those were installed