Karmapa issue far from resolved
Hidustan Times Friday, February 9,
2001, New Delhi
Udayan Namboodiri - (New Delhi, February
The government's decision to formally
recognise Lama Urgyen Trinley Dorjee as a "registered Tibetan refugee"
comes after months of back channel diplomacy. The decision was taken during
former Chinese premier Li Peng's last month visit.
The principal of equal disadvantage
prevailed eventually as both India and China were left half satisfied.
New Delhi has refused to recognise
the 14-year-old as the Karmapa of the Karma Kagyu sect. He will continue
to live in Dharamsala, the headquarters of the Tibetan government in exile.
His movements within and outside the country will be restricted. Most
importantly, he might never be allowed to go to Sikkim where his followers
want him to take charge of the Rumtek monastery.
The arrival of the Lama was not good
news for New Delhi as it was seen as a deliberate move on China's part
to drive a wedge between the followers of "their" Karmapa and
"ours". Seventeen-year-old Thaye Dorjee, who lives in Kalimpong
under Indian intelligence cover but not allowed to enter Sikkim, is "Karmapa"
to his own flock.
Here the role of the Dalai Lama,
supreme spiritual head of Tibet in who is reposed the power to arbitrate,
is curious. His holiness continues to oscillate between accepting the
"Chinese Karmapa" as the 16th Karmapa of the Rangjung Rigpe
Dorje sect and the two Karmapa theory. This comes in handy for Beijing,
and sometimes Kathmandu, resulting in diplomatic pressure on India to
put an end to the debate and accept, by extension, Beijing's man as head
of a universally pro-Indian people.
During his stay in Delhi, Li Peng
tried to hustle India on the issue. But India stood firm on its resolve
to further the status quo. China has another backer in the Pawan Chamling
government of Sikkim. The time is also ticking away. The "Kalimpong
Karmapa" will be 21 in four years time and may very well decide,
on the backing of his estimated 50,000 followers, to lay claim to the
coveted "Black Hat". A communal explosion, degenerating into
a diplomatic face-off with China may result. Those who urged New Delhi
in January last to send the 14-year-old packing may have offered the best
Article published in " Hindu
" 8 février 2001
By Atul Aneja
New Delhi, Feb. 7.
By granting the teenage monk, Urgyen
Trinley Dorji, ``refugee'' status last week, the Government may have exposed
itself to a security risk with far-reaching consequences.
Highly-placed sources in the Government
said his ``refugee'' status could lead the 17th Karmapa to the powerful
Rumtek monastery in Sikkim, ``headquarters'' of the five million strong
Kagyu sect of Tibetan Buddhism, and to which he belongs. With an estimated
following of five million in 300 monasteries across the globe, the sect
has a large following in Sikkim too.
Sources here are concerned about
the security implications of granting refugee status as they cannot rule
out a Chinese hand in the Karmapa affair. Suspicions about a larger international
involvement in the episode have been aroused by the manner of the boy
monk's arrival in India. A section of the Government feels the Karmapa
could not have arrived without the prior knowledge and assistance from
China. According to them, the Karmapa, lodged on the third or fourth floor
of the Tsurphu monastery near Lhasa, ``escaped'' and supposedly travelled
by jeep along a single pothole-ridden road leading out. Seven bridges
were crossed by the party which included six others, besides the Karmapa,
before the border with Nepal was crossed early last year. The defectors,
it is believed, then entered India from Nepal in the vicinity of Gorakhpur
before arriving in Dharamsala. It is highly improbable that they managed
to elude the Chinese vigilance machinery throughout the journey.
Initial reports about the monk's arrival here, however, negated this view saying the Lama and his entourage, in peak winter, trekked 1,450 km before reaching Dharamsala. While suspecting a Chinese hand, sources here do not rule out the U.S. involvement either. The presence of the U.S. special coordinator on Tibet in Dharamsala, a day after the Karmapa's arrival there, may not have been coincidental.
The Karmapa's presence in India has
been matched by pressures on shifting him to Rumtek. Tai Situ Rinpoche
- a U.S- educated monk and one of the four regents involved in the selection
of the 17th Karmapa after the death of the 16th Karmapa, has been seeking
his presence in Rumtek. Others in the sects, however, have opposed him.
Shamar Rinpoche, another regent involved in selecting the 17th Karmapa,
has objected to bringing Urgyen Trinley Dorji to Rumtek. In fact, he has
challenged Dorji's status as the 17th Karmapa and has instead chosen Trinley
Thaye Dorje the real representative of the Kagyu sect.
In case the Karmapa, who may have tacit Chinese support, reaches Rumtek, it could have several negative security implications for India. The monastery is highly influential and its rulings can greatly influence public opinion in Sikkim. It also houses the black hat, symbol of ultimate authority in the sect. The monastery has tremendous wealth and resources and houses the treasures brought by the 16th Karmapa, who escaped with the Dalai Lama in 1959. India has granted Urgyen Trinley Dorji refugee status, but has not given him permission to visit Rumtek. Asked whether Dorji could visit Sikkim, a Foreign Office spokesman said: ``Not as yet.'' The Karmapa, the spokesman said, was ``free to move subject to rules and regulations imposed from time to time.''
20 March 2001 in The Time Of India Editorial, by
Rai Singh, New Delhi
Apropos of Bisheshwar Mishra's news report "Is
the Karmapa a security risk?" (Mar 7), I feel China has achieved
a major foreign policy objective by successfully appointing the 14-year
old, Lama Urgyen Trinley, as the 17th Karmapa. Lama Trinley is now the
rightful successor and head priest of the Rumtek Monastery following the
death of Gyalwa Karmapa, whom I happened to know personally while serving
During the recently held Sino-Indian talks, the issue
regarding the status of 14-year-old Chinese-sponsored Lama Urgyen Trinley
as the successor to the Karmapa of the Rumtek monastery in Sikkim also
came up for discussion. It may be recalled that during his visit to India
in January this year, Mr Li Peng had tried to convince India to accept
his candidate Lama Trinley's claim as the rightful successor of Gyalwa
Karmapa. This time too he reiterated this. Realising the security implications
of the Chinese move, India has so far declined to accept the Chinese claim.
By granting the teenage monk, Urgyen Trinley Dorji, permanent refugee status, India has exposed itself to a grave security risk. The government knows his refugee status will eventually lead to his becoming the 17th Karmapa of the powerful Rumtek monastery in Sikkim, which is the headquarter of the five-million strong Kagyu sect of Tibetan Buddhism. The sect has a large following in Sikkim too. The Chinese are hand-in-glove in the Karmapa affair. They are suspicious about a larger international involvement in the episode.
A Karma Kagyu International Conference took place on the 16th and 17th of March 2001, in Kathmandu, Nepal with H. H. Shamar Rinpoche, Khempo Tchödrak Rinpoche and Nyendo Rinpoche leading the meeting.
The conference gathered many tulkus, lamas, monks and lay people who came from 23 countries and represented more than 500 centers and monasteries around the world. This gathering fostered a closer relationship among the members of the Kakyupa community and took place in a warm, sociable atmosphere.
Venerable Rimpoches, Respected Khenpos, Dear members
of the Karma Kagyu Sangha, Very distinguished guests,
We, the monk-community of Rumtek Dharma Chakra Centre
extend our sincere welcome to all of you and thank you for attending this
conference. We have decided to hold this conference mainly because of
specific extraordinary recent developments which have to be urgently discussed,
considered and resolved by the entire Karma Kagyu Organisation. Thank
you for your presence, which we highly appreciate.
During the last centuries there always existed 4
main separate and independent schools of Tibetan Buddhism. Even after
1959 they succeeded to exercise and to maintain their spiritual and also
legal independence in exile. Recently however H.H. the Dalai Lama has
seriously endangered this long established good tradition to protect and
preserve the rich diversity of the Tibetan Buddhist Faith.
The late 16th Karmapa Rangjung Rigpe Dorje, the undisputed
spiritual leader of the Karma Kagyu School, repeatedly had to defend the
special qualities of the teachings of his school against frequent interferences
of H.H. the Dalai Lama. At the end of the day these attacks were in vain
and unsuccessful. But as a direct consequence H.H. probably began to develop
an unsurpressable animosity against both, the independently minded 16th
Karmapa and the Karma Kagyu School. Regretably the Dalai Lama continued
and even increased his subversive activities against the Karma Kagyu School
after Karmapa had passed away in 1981.
At first we only experienced very harmful activities
of a certain high Kagyu Rimpoche, who obviously had totally discarded
his loyalty and respect for his own School. This Situ Rimpoche misguided
many honest people, bribed numerous officials and closely associated himself
with thieves and gangsters who committed serious crimes including murder.
We, therefore, never had a choice but had to defend our school against
these malicious attacks. We did so by rejecting all political and nonreligious
influences and strictly confined ourselves to the pure practice of our
religion. We actively avoided all potentially harmful confrontations and
always worked hard to further improve the good image of Tibetan Buddhism
in our world. This compassionate and peaceful reaction to the sometimes
rather vicious attacks of Situ Rimpoche and his associates served us very
well until now. Therefore it is not surprising at all that the international
community, political leaders, human rights groups and the international
media, did not even know about our very existence in the past. We considered
the stated problem to be an extremely unfortunate and highly regrettable
but internal issue of our Karma Kagyu School into which outsiders should
not get involved. Recently we discovered however that H.H. the Dalai Lama,
who is not a member of our school, had actively directed the said activities
of Situ Rimpoche from the very beginning. This shocking discovery is the
reason for this public statement.
In close cooperation with Situ Rimpoche H.H. the
Dalai Lama secretly directed the false recognition and enthronement of
a Karmapa in China, thus successfully creating a split in the Karma Kagyu
School. Since ancient times shrewed politicians always tried to divide
and rule their opponents and potential competitors. In this respect H.
H. is no exception.
Until recently we always wondered why H.H. the Dalai
Lama never publicly condemned the violent and hostile take-over of Rumtek
monastery in Sikkim in August 1993. At that time Situ Rimpoche had successfully
bribed some powerful officials of the Sikkimese administration, who in
return gratefully organised the violent take-over of the monastery and
expelled all Karmapa's loyal monks by force. Immediately afterwards they
handed the control of the monastery over to Situ Rimpoche.
Meanwhile we analysed H.H's activities towards our
school and resolved that he is motivated by his deep disappointment and
dislike of the late Karmapa, who always strongly resisted H.H.'s numerous
attempts to bring the Karma Kagyu School under his control. He had this
basic disagreement with the Karmapa, who strongly upheld the spiritual
freedom and independence of his school.
We are now making this public statement, although we are aware of the Dalai Lama's excellent reputation in the western world. Many honest private persons, great teachers, politicians and eminent statesmen have been genuinely impressed by the unusual strong personality of this "simple monk". Also due to the Dalai Lama's religious activities the pure buddhist teachings of nonviolence, compassion and love are becoming more and more popular in our today's world. In this respect we sincerely acknowledge the most outstanding contributions of H.H. the Dalai Lama. At the same time we realize however, that many admirers of H.H. the Dalai Lama either do not or do not wish to distinguish between his pure religious teachings and his political activities. Many supporters of H.H. have not noticed the subtle influence of Hollywood's frequent presentations of Tibet as a spiritual paradise and of the Dalai Lama as an absolutely faultless, holy man. On this background his long, political fight against the legal communist government of China even enhanced his carefully crafted image as a galant defender of democracy, freedom and human rights. In particular the media in many western countries such as the USA, Germany, France and others often just follow the popular, well established trends and opinions without making their own proper investigations and judgements of the complicated underlying realities of Tibetan affairs.
Due to his deep-rooted opposition to the late 16th
Karmapa H.H. the Dalai Lama searched and found a small number of unhappy
Rimpoches within the Karma Kagyu School who were willing to secretly support
his ambitions. Thus the traitorous Situ Rimpoche and his men became willing
participants of H.H.'s scheme to divide and conquer the Karma Kagyu School.
H.H. took a great risk by openly disclosing his previously secret leadership
of Situ Rimpoche's group now. But obviously he had to make that disclosure
now because he finally noticed that Situ Rimpoche alone had no realistic
chance of success with his destructive schemes against us.
We wish to emphasize that we never had and do not
have any intention whatsoever to tarnish the reputation of H.H. the Dalai
Lama as a religious leader. In that capacity we do respect him very, very
much. But after H.H. openly disclosed his leading role in Situ Rimpoche'
s group we are forced to take a firm stand. His close association with
the highly questionable Situ Rimpoche, who had happily enjoyed a very
special relationship with China and who was banned to enter India for
good reasons in the past, is most deplorable indeed. As we sincerely respect
our own spiritual leader, the Karmapa, our first duty is to protect and
preserve the authentic, special teachings of our Karma Kagyu School. Therefore
we cannot agree at all to H.H.'s preposterous claim to be the authorized
person to enthrone the Karmapa.
The conference is scheduled to debate this issue
and to resolve this delicate problem in the most effective way, if possible.
At the same time the conference will also serve all interested parties
as a valuable source of information regarding Tibetan and Himalayan Buddhism
Khenpo Choedrak Tenphel Ngendo Rimpoche
Venerable Rinpoches, Respected Khenpos, dear members
of the Karma Kagyu Sangha, very distinguished guests.
We have reached a crossroads in our effort to preserve
the authentic transmission of the Karma Kagyu lineage. The individuals
behind the secret design to split and ultimately take over the Karma Kagyu
lineage have today emerged at the forefront of the controversy.
In my meeting with H.H. the Dalai Lama in Washington
in June, 2000, I emphasized that the Karmapa and the Shamarpa had for
centuries exercised authority over the Karma Kagyu. I declared that in
1994, I alone had identified and recognized Thaye Dorje as the 17th Karmapa
in accordance with our traditional methods.
H.H. the Dalai Lama had previously involved himself
in the Karmapa matter and he appeared to have taken a side. He also mentioned
that there could be more than one Karmapa. I accepted his position and
asked him to reveal it publicly. Since Urgyen Trinley was installed in
Tsurphu, I proposed that Tsurphu naturally continued to be his seat. Thus,
he would be the Karmapa for China and Tibet. In return, Thaye Dorje would
be supported as the Karmapa for India and as the head of the Kagyu monasteries
I put forward this compromise in my genuine desire
to solve the conflict which had split the Karma Kagyu lineage in half.
However, the Dalai Lama rejected my offer. I was informed in writing that,
in fact His Holiness had recognized Urgyen Trinley as the authentic Karmapa.
The Dalai Lama's recognition was carried out not only on the basis of
Situ Rinpoche's so called "prediction letter" but also because
of his own private indications. This was a total departure from the Karma
Kagyu practice and tradition. The Dalai Lama was forcing himself into
a position of religious arbiter, endowed with spiritual powers and authority
to deliver the Karmapas. A move was set afoot to convert the Kagyu school
to the Gelugpa order!
I could not accede to such a scenario!
I then came forward with yet another compromise,
that, if implemented, could have won us back the unity of the lineage
and installed a Karmapa all his followers could accept. I proposed that
the issue of the Karmapa be solved by the Karmapas themselves. Accompanied
only by their parents, Urgyen Trinley and Thaye Dorje would meet and themselves
arrive at a satisfactory solution. I could have no possible personal gain
from any such offer and had only the lineage's benefit in view. I was
also convinced that my proposal would best serve the boys' interests.
Again my offer was not appreciated, this time by the Dalai Lamas favorite
political group in Sikkim (Joint Action Committee).
What logical conclusion can one draw from these constant
rejections? The answer which comes to mind is that His Holiness the Dalai
Lama is against the growth of Karmapa's activity and has engaged in a
"divide and conquer" policy. How else to interpret the broken
promises, behind the scenes plotting, the infringing upon our centuries
old tradition, the creation of new religious customs.
I am sharing this information with considerable concern
and much regret. Is the Dalai Lama still driven by his old personal animosity
to the late 16th Karmapa and to the then Rumtek administration? The late
16th Karmapa, undisputed leader of the Karma Kagyu school, confronted
Dharamsala's ambition regarding the four schools. By creating a successful
counterbalance to Dharamsala's policy, H.H. the 16th Karmapa gained no
friends within the exiled government. It seems that old rivalries die
hard and today the Karma Kagyu school has come under fire at it's most
We have reached a turning point. If we lose the right
to recognize the Karmapa, our lineage will cease to function as an autonomous
transmission that has been preserved for nine centuries. I am asking your
opinion and seeking your advice. Do we fight for our independence? Or
do we submit to another lineage? If we should fight, what is there to
fight for? What constitutes the uniqueness of the Karma Kagyu school that
is now in imminent danger of disappearing?
Is it Rumtek monastery that lies at the centre of
the Kagyu legacy? The answer is no. According to the Buddhist sutras,
a place where the Sangha have been split and have engaged in a fight -
described in the sutras is one of the five limitless negative actions
(Tsam Meapa Nga) - loses its blessing, is devoid of spiritual merit and,
in fact, becomes spiritually polluted. To restore its unequaled qualities,
the warring sides must be brought together and fully reconciled; moreover,
a Yen-Dum (conciliation) Stupa must be erected on the site, else no spiritual
activity there is possible. If Rumtek is to once again function as a Buddhist
place, if a practitioner is ever to develop and accumulate merit there,
whoever resides at Rumtek has to bring the Sangha together as well as
construct the conciliation Stupa.
Furthermore, Rumtek - or any other monastery for that matter - is only a building designed to accommodate the monk community so they can perform the necessary rituals and practices. The late 16th Karmapa chose Rumtek for his headquarters and the cloister had well served that purpose until the 2nd of August, 1993 when it came under attack from and was subsequently occupied by Situ and Gyaltasb Rinpoche's supporters going hand in hand with the Sikkimese armed forces on orders from bribed officers. The attackers committed one of the five limitless negative actions described in the sutras.
Furthermore, for all its beauty and auspicious location,
a building alone cannot aspire to the spiritual status of the Kagyu's
unique heritage. In spite of this, every effort is still under way to
recover Rumtek and return it to its rightful occupants.
The holy relics stored at Rumtek carry the blessing
of the lineage. However, those are moveable artifacts which, luckily,
had been placed under lock and key as early as August 1992 by the farseeing
Rumtek monk community. They were later sealed on order issued by the District
Magistrate and can be recovered once the court comes down with a ruling.
Even Karmapa's famous black crown - adorned with precious ruby - is not
indispensable for the functioning of the lineage. The crown was offered
to the 5th Karmapa by the Ming Dynaty's Yung Lo emperor of China. However,
our lineage had flourished no less successfully without the crown's presence
than when it was endowed with its physical existence. Besides, neither
Urgyen Trinley nor Thaye Dorje may be able to obtain the black crown unless
they reach a mutual agreement.
What then constitutes the Karma Kagyu's unequaled
transmission which should be preserved at all costs? First and foremost,
our right to recognize the Karmapa, the undisputed spiritual leader of
our lineage. The Dalai Lama's attempts to force the Kagyu school into
the Gelugpa order must be stopped in its tracks. Regrettably, Situ Rinpoche
together with Thrangu Rinpoche, closely followed by Gyaltsab and Bokar
Rinpoche gave in to the Dalai Lama's intrusion and in doing so they have
created a crisis of unprecedented proportions in Karma Kagyu history.
Their short-sighted and self-serving deals with the Communist Chinese
and their sheepish submission to the Gelugpa school's authority put the
independence of the lineage in total jeopardy.
Second, we must preserve the teachings and methods
written and handed down by the Karmapas and the Kagyu masters which make
up the uniqueness of this school. The main source of the lineage are the
founding fathers: Marpa, Milarepa and Gampopa. The transmission encompasses
profound Vajrayana teachings such as the essential instruction given by
Dusum Khyenpa; the Six Yogas of Naropa, taught for the first time in written
form by the 2nd Shamarpa; the profound commentaries to the tantras, extensively
given by the 3rd and 8th Karmapas along with the 4th Shamarpa. The Kagyu
transmission also encompasses the vastness of the sutras such as the Madhyamaka,
the Abhidharma, the Prajnaparamita, the Vinaya and the Tsema explained
in complete detail by the 7th and 8th Karmapas. Finally the transmission
contains both Sutra and Tantra within the profoundness of the Mahamudra,
written, explained and taught by the 9th Karmapa and others. Additionally,
the Karma Kagyu transmission includes the Nyingma teachings, called Karma
Nyingtik, incorporated into the lineage by the 3rd Karmapa as well as
the Termas of Jatson Nyingpo and Karma Chagme.
We are at a turning point in our history. Indeed,
it would be a great loss to the Buddhist world if our transmission were
to disappear in favor of another ambitiously expanding lineage. I am once
again asking you the crucial question: Do we fight for our lineage, or
do we surrender? We must come down with a binding decision during this
conference. If we yield, we will lose the treasure of the Karma Kagyu
transmission. If we wish to continue our struggle, we have no choice but
to oppose the Dalai Lama. It is his interference and his "divide
and conquer" strategy that is the primary threat to the integrity
of our Karma Kagyu today.
If we together decide to defend the lineage, we would
need everybody's help and support. It is our common house we are protecting.
We are struggling for the very survival of the Karma Kagyu blessing; our
aim is to preserve the Buddha's unparalleled methods for helping beings
achieve enlightenment. They must not disappear today due to corruption
from within and aggression from without.
In order to function as an efficient body, under
today's challenging circumstances I would propose the following: The establishment
of our Karma Kagyu headquarters in New Delhi, India and the set up of
two administrative centres, one in Washington, DC, USA for the West and
one in Hong Kong for the East.
During the two days of discussions, work groups were
organized, and several actions were taken and resolutions passed:
1) The International Karma Kagyu Organization (IKKO)
was created, with headquarters in New Delhi, India. It is in charge of
coordinating the circulation of information among the various Karma Kagyu
centers, and of coordinating decisions involving the whole school. Under
the authority of H.H. Shamar Rinpoche, the IKKO will act in the name of
all the centers and monasteries claiming to belong to it.
2) The delegates reaffirmed the independence of the
Karma Kagyu lineage and their opposition to any external intervention
in the internal affairs of the lineage. An open letter to H.H. the Dalai
Lama was written with this intention.
3) A request concerning the recognition of the 17th
Karmapa was presented to H.H. Shamar Rinpoche. Specifically, delegates
encouraged H. H. Shamar Rinpoche to continue his effort to have the alleged
"prediction letter" from Situ Rinpoche submitted to an independent
and official test of its authenticity.
4) The members of the conference expressed their sincere and unanimous gratitude to H. H. Shamar Rinpoche as well as support for his past and present activity devoted to preserving the authenticity of the Karma Kagyu school. They passed a resolution requesting him personally to give His Holiness the Gyalwa Karmapa, Trinley Thaye Dordje the authentic and pure transmissions, initiations, and teachings of the Karma Kagyu lineage. Delegates from the various centers will be invited to participate in this transmission.
This letter has been sent by all the participants
in the International Karma Kagyu Conference
Kathmandu, 17th March 2001
An International Karma Kagyu Conference was held
in Kathmandu, Nepal, on 16th and 17th of March, 2001. Delegates representing
over five hundred monasteries and centers of the Karma Kagyu Lineage from
around the world attended. The conference was expressly convened to address
the present crisis within the Karma Kagyu lineage. A unanimous resolution
was passed to declare our school's determination to reject any interference
from outside the Karma Kagyu lineage regarding the process of recognition
and enthronement of the Karmapas and to protect the authentic transmission
of the Karma Kagyu Lineage.
History shows that the present crisis is rooted in
the past. For centuries, the Gelugpa lineage of the Dalai Lamas and the
Karma Kagyu lineage of the Gyalwa Karmapas have been locked in a struggle.
In 1959 came the demise of Tibet at the hands of the
Communists. Unfortunately Tibet's destruction seemed not to have been
disaster enough to reign in the long-standing and unjustified aggression
of the Gelugpa School towards the Karmapa and his Karma Kagyu order.
We highly respect and support Your Holiness' struggle
for the welfare and freedom of the Tibetan people. We therefore request
you to apply the same goodwill in the case of the Karmapa controversy.
For the sake of the integrity of our lineage, we urge Your Holiness to
gracefully bow out of this internal conflict of the Karma Kagyu School.
We also ask for Your Holiness' support regarding our view that the whole
world will benefit by preserving the rich diversity of all four schools,
including the Karma Kagyu.
Most respectfully, for and on behalf of all delegates
to the International Karma Kagyu Conference