Chronology of Events
An overview of the main events surrounding
the controversy over the 17th incarnation of Gyalwa Karmapa of Tibet (from
Nov. 1981 till Dec.2000)
On Nov. 5, 1981, Rangjung
Rigpe Dorje, the 16th Gyalwa Karmapa, head of the Karma Kagyu lineage
of Tibetan Buddhism, passed away in Zion, USA. Since then, followers of
the lineage have waited for Karmapa's next incarnation. Historically,
two necessary components were involved in the delicate process of recognizing
the next Karmapa: the deeds of the young incarnation, and the oral or
written directions left by the predecessor.
On Dec. 20, 1981, Karmapa's
cremation ceremony, attended by Indian dignitaries and several thousands
of his disciples, took place in Rumtek, Karmapa's main seat outside Tibet.
On Dec. 21, 1981 a general
Karma Kagyu meeting was held in Rumtek . Mr. Dhamchoe Yongdu, the then
General Secretary to the 16th Karmapa, requested Kunzig Shamar Rinpoche,
historically second after Karmapa in the spiritual hierarchy of the lineage
as well as Tai Situ Rinpoche, Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche, and Goshir Gyaltsab
Rinpoche, close disciples of the 16th Karmapa, to take joint responsibility
for the affairs of the Karma Kagyu lineage. He also asked them to locate
Karmapa's instructions concerning his next rebirth and thus bring forward
his next incarnation. Although a four-person body in charge of Karmapa's
recognition was a historical novelty, the four Rinpoches accepted the
task and expressed their sincere desire to fulfil the wishes of the 16th
On Jan. 21, 1983, at another
general Karma Kagyu meeting in Rumtek, it was decided that Topga Yulgyal,
who the 16th Karmapa had appointed as Mr. Yongdu's successor, would commence
as General Secretary of the Karmapa Charitable Trust . The Trust, founded
by the 16th Karmapa in 1961, was to provide care and management for the
Kagyu lineage during the intermediate period after the 16th Karmapa passed
away and before the 17th Karmapa attained the age of twenty-one years.
Since 1983, rumors about the
16th Karmapa's reincarnation began to emerge. .
On Feb. 9, 1986, in order
to put an end to speculation about the different Karmapa candidates, Kunzig
Shamar Rinpoche sent a letter to the Kagyu lamas and monasteries pointing
out that the 17th Karmapa would reveal himself in the traditional way
On Feb. 23, 1986, the four
Rinpoches met in Rumtek. After their meeting, they issued a statement
declaring that two letters by the 16th Karmapa regarding his reincarnation
had been found: an "outer" and an "inner" one. They
also disclosed that the inner letter was supposed to be opened at an unspecified
date in the future, after a certain number of religious ceremonies, described
in the outer letter, had been performed . In fact, as they would later
admit, the four Rinpoches had not found any letters of instruction from
the 16th Karmapa.
On April 18, 1986, Topga Rinpoche,
General Secretary of the Karmapa Charitable Trust informed the dharma-centers
world-wide of the discovery of the letters of instructions, which he believed
to be true .
On May 4, 1988, the Rumtek
staff announced that all rituals specified in the outer letter had been
performed, thus the obstacles to open the final testament had been removed.
Over the years, the four Rinpoches assured the followers of the Kagyu
lineage that the 16th Karmapa's reincarnation would be found very soon.
In 1989 - as he would later
claim - Situ Rinpoche discovered by accident Karmapa's "prediction
letter." Supposedly, he had received the letter shortly before His
Holiness passed away in 1981, with no indication whatsoever as to its
momentous content. Wrapped in silk, a package was given to him as a protector.
He didn't even know it contained a letter. When in 1989 Situ Rinpoche
decided to exchange the worn out fabric that had protected his talisman,
instead of the expected relics he found the "prediction letter".
At the end of 1989 Situ Rinpoche
informed the other three regents that he was in possession of "good
news similar to the joyful cries of peacocks" .
On March 14, 1990, the four
Rinpoches met in New Delhi. However, during the meeting, Situ Rinpoche
neither mentioned nor presented his "prediction letter" which,
according to his own words, he had discovered in 1989. Later, in his talk
on June 12, 1992, Situ Rinpoche claimed that he did not want to show the
letter at that time because the meeting did not take place in Rumtek but
in his hotel in New Delhi. After their meeting, the four Rinpoches wrote
a letter to the Karmapa Charitable Trust saying: "We must remain
firm in all circumstances, until we arrive at the appropriate time",
indicating that everything would still take some time.
From Aug. 1990 until Oct.
1990, the "Chushi Gangdrug Committee" and the "Derge
Association", two political groups operating from Kathmandu, Nepal
, wrote letters to the four Rinpoches and the trustees of The Karmapa
Charitable Trust accusing them of neglecting their duty in the search
for Karmapa's reincarnation.
On Nov. 25, 1990, the four
Rinpoches met again in Delhi. In the statement they issued afterwards
they rejected the accusations. During this meeting Situ Rinpoche again
did not present his "prediction letter" .
In 1991, Situ Rinpoche spent
several months in Tibet, performing empowerments at Palpung Monastery,
his seat in Eastern Tibet, and recognizing hundreds of tulkus. Lama Amdo
Palden, the abbot of Kalek Monastery in Tibet where a boy Urgyen Trinley
had been accepted as a monk, recounted that at that time Situ Rinpoche
had given refuge to the boy in Palpung. After leaving for Beijing, Rinpoche
sent a mala to Urgyen Trinley as a special protector.
On March 5, 1992, the Derge
Association sent a letter to the Kagyu dharma centers worldwide. In this
letter Situ Rinpoche was presented as being the only person responsible
for finding the Karmapa . The other three Rinpoches as well as the
General Secretary of the Karmapa Charitable Trust were accused of delaying
On March 19, 1992, a meeting
of the four Rinpoches took place in Rumtek. Situ Rinpoche presented his
"prediction letter" which contained detailed information regarding
Karmapa's 17th reincarnation. Kunzig Shamar Rinpoche and also, to some
extent, Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche expressed doubts as to the authenticity
of the handwriting and signature in the letter . Shamar Rinpoche wanted
the "prediction letter" to be tested forensically. After hours
of discussion the four Rinpoches decided to keep their disagreement secret,
to solve the problems among themselves and to meet seven weeks later for
further consultations. Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche, whom they all trusted
and who was soon to travel to Tibet, was requested to make an initial
contact with the child on the basis of the instructions from the letter.
He was to report his findings to the other three Rinpoches after his return
On March 26, 1992, despite
the agreement, Situ Rinpoche sent a letter to various Dharma centers in
the East declaring that the search party for the 17th Karmapa was in place
and ready to proceed . His letter was followed by a similar message
from the Derge Association.
On April 8, 1992, the Tsurphu
administration sent a search party for the 17th Karmapa to Kham in Eastern
Tibet, (Tsurphu is Karmapa's main seat in Tibet). Even though the content
of Situ Rinpoche's "prediction letter" was supposed to be kept
secret among the four Rinpoches, and despite the fact that only Jamgon
Kongtrul Rinpoche had been appointed to contact the child, a Lama Tomo
from Tsurphu set out at the head of a party of five to look for the new
Karmapa in Kham.
On April 24, 1992, a picture
of the boy Urgyen Trinley was taken and a pick-up party was organized
from Tsurphu . Everything seemed pre-arranged and had the permission
of the Communist Chinese authorities.
On April 26, 1992, shortly
before he was to set out for his journey to Tibet, Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche
died in a car accident. During the 49 days that followed his death, rituals
were performed at Rumtek Monastery.
On May 10 1992, Shamar Rinpoche
left Rumtek for a scheduled dharma program abroad. It was generally assumed
that out of respect for the late Jamgon Kongtrul no further steps in connection
with Karmapa's recognition would be taken during the 49 days of ceremonies.
On May 17, 1992, a week after
Shamar Rinpoche's departure, Situ Rinpoche and Gyaltsab Rinpoche delivered
a public speech in Rumtek. Breaking their March agreement, they announced
that they had sent their own representatives to Tibet to search for the
17th Karmapa . They expressed their regret and concern that Shamarpa
wasn't available at this point for discussion, but unable to wait any
longer for the main regent's return, they were forced to proceed with
their duty. In fact, the search in Tibet was by then over. The boy had
already been "found" by the Tsurphu search party in collaboration
with the Communist Chinese authorities.
On May 20, 1992, Situ Rinpoche
and Gyaltsab Rinpoche publicly opened their "prediction letter"
in Rumtek and, to gain legitimacy, showed it to Sakya Trinzin, leader
of the Sakya School of Tibetan Buddhism. Most people were unaware that
although Sakya Trinzin was a highly learned and widely respected lama,
he had no role whatsoever in the process of Karmapa's recognition.
On June 6, 1992, Situ Rinpoche
and Gyaltsab Rinpoche traveled to Dharamsala to meet H.H. the Dalai Lama.
Shamar Rinpoche, carrying on his Dharma program in the West, heard rumors
that a boy, supposedly the 16th Karmapa's reincarnation, was being brought
On June 7, 1992, Shamar Rinpoche,
cutting short his stay in the US, returned to Rumtek and learned that
the other two Rinpoches had left for Dharamsala.
On June 8, 1992, Shamar Rinpoche
gave a talk to the monks of Rumtek Monastery. As the steps undertaken
by Situ Rinpoche and Gyaltsab Rinpoche had violated their earlier agreements,
he publicly declared his position and his doubts regarding the authenticity
of Situ Rinpoche's "prediction letter". He also stated that
he knew of a close and trustworthy disciple of the 16th Karmapa who was
in possession of direct instructions concerning Karmapa's 17th incarnation
On June 9, 1992, Situ Rinpoche
and Gyaltsab Rinpoche contacted the Dalai Lama, who was in Brazil, by
phone and fax. They told him that all the Kagyu lamas unanimously requested
his confirmation of Urgyen Trinley in Tsurphu as being the 17th Karmapa.
Consequently an informal confirmation was issued from the Dalai Lama's
private office in Dharamsala. Evidently the Dalai Lama had not been informed
about the controversy among the highest Kagyu lamas
On June 11, 1992, Shamar Rinpoche
sent a letter to the Karma Kagyu followers, expressing his doubts about
Situ Rinpoche's "prediction letter".
On June 11, 1992, around 11
p.m., Shamar Rinpoche received a phone call from an Indian Army General
informing him that a party of soldiers was being dispatched to Rumtek
to protect him and the monastery. The army had received information that
two buses with Tibetans from Kathmandu were on their way to Rumtek to
put pressure on Shamar Rinpoche and the monastery. The soldiers arrived
in the middle of the night.
On June 12, 1992, Situ Rinpoche
and Gyaltsab Rinpoche returned from Dharamsala. At once they called a
meeting of the Rumtek monk and lay communities. In their speeches delivered
in the monastery yard, the two presented a "fait accompli":
the 17th Karmapa would come to Tsurphu in a few days, and the Dalai Lama
had given his approval. Shamar Rinpoche was informed about the gathering
while it was already in progress. When Rinpoche went from his house to
the monastery to talk to the two lineage holders, he was followed by the
soldiers who had orders to protect him. Seeing him enter the monastery
yard at the head of a group of soldiers, Situ Rinpoche and Gyaltsab Rinpoche
jumped from their thrones, ran into the main building, locked themselves
in and had guards posted in front of the doors .
On June 15, 1992, Urgyen Trinley
arrived in Tsurphu in a convoy of about seven vehicles. A car accident
took place on their way to Tsurphu and two people were killed. Chinese
officials took part in the welcoming ceremony and were among the principal
guests. No representatives from Rumtek were present .
On June 16, 1992, signatures
were collected from the Lamas and Tulkus attending the final rituals for
the late Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche in Rumtek. Two letters were being passed
around for signing. In the first one, the undersigned declared that they
"accepted the unmistaken prediction letter"; in the second one
they expressed their gratitude to the Dalai Lama for his confirmation.
On June 16, 1992, Tulku Urgyen
from Nepal, a senior lama and teacher to the Rinpoches, came to Rumtek
to mediate. After talking to Situ Rinpoche he held a meeting with Shamar
Rinpoche. He urged Shamarpa to give his agreement because the Dalai Lama
had already given his approval. He also reasoned that China had acknowledged
the child and would never withdraw from this position.
On June 17, 1992, Shamar Rinpoche
and Situ Rinpoche met. Out of respect for the Dalai Lama, Shamar Rinpoche
suspended his demand that the letter of prediction be tested forensically.
On June 22, 1992, Situ Rinpoche
and Gyaltsab Rinpoche sent a letter to the followers of the lineage declaring
that the 17th Karmapa had been found, that the Dalai Lama had confirmed
him, and that all the disagreements had been resolved
On June 29, 1992, Beijing
officially recognized Urgyen Trinley as the 17th Karmapa, bestowing the
title of "Living Buddha" upon him. A series of reports were
published. For example, one official Tibetan newspaper declared that "the
17th Karmapa ... will become an individual loyal to his socialist motherland...".
The fact that the communist government used the installation of a "Living
Buddha" for its own political purposes became more and more apparent.
On June 29, 1992, Situ Rinpoche
and Gyaltsab Rinpoche had a personal audience with the Dalai Lama to receive
his official approval of Urgyen Trinley as the 17th Karmapa. A few hours
later, Shamar Rinpoche also called on the Tibetan leader and presented
On July 3, 1992, the Department
of Information and International Relations of the Tibetan Government in
Exile sent a statement with the official approval of Urgyen Trinley by
the Dalai Lama. At this point, it should be clearly stated that the recognition
of the Karmapa does not lie in the hands of the Tibetan Government, or
of the Dalai Lama. The Karmapa's reincarnations date back to the 12th
century, whereas the Dalai Lama's line of reincarnation started 300 years
later. The confirmation of a reincarnation is a purely spiritual matter
of the respective lineage. However, Situ Rinpoche and Gyaltsab Rinpoche
tried to strengthen their position by gaining the approval of the Dalai
Lama. To achieve this, they claimed that a consensus existed among all
On Aug. 3, 1992, the General
Secretary of the Karmapa Charitable Trust wrote a letter to the Board
of Trustees expressing his concern regarding the Karmapa issue and asking
the Trustees to secure the wishes of the late 16th Karmapa. During this
time, Situ Rinpoche and Gyaltsab Rinpoche made announcements in Kathmandu
and again asked people to sign various letters to show their agreement
that Urgyen Trinley was the 17th Karmapa . They rectified their previous
assurances and explained that the boy would not immediately come out of
Tibet, but would be first enthroned in Tsurphu and would visit India and
Nepal soon after.
On Sept. 27, 1992, the official
enthronement of Urgyen Trinley took place in Tsurphu. Even though Situ
Rinpoche and Gyaltsab Rinpoche insisted that all problems had been solved,
the members of Rumtek Monastery, the members of the Karmapa Charitable
Trust, and the representatives of the major Kagyu centers in the West
did not approve of this procedure. Kunzig Shamar Rinpoche, historically
second after the Karmapa in the spiritual hierarchy of the Karma Kagyu
lineage, did not take part in the ceremonies. Some weeks after the Tsurphu
enthronement a report by Lobsang Gelek Rinpoche revealed that many inauspicious
events occurred at that time.
In October 1992, a book called
"The Karmapa Papers" shed light on the background of the ongoing
Karmapa issue. The publication presented a chronology of events since
Karmapa's death in 1981, the translation of a large number of letters
exchanged among the four Rinpoches and between the Rinpoches and the Karmapa
Charitable Trust since 1983, an analysis of Situ Rinpoche's "prediction
letter" and the transcription of the speeches given by the Rinpoches
in Rumtek, in June 1992 at the outcome of the crisis.
In the autumn of 1992, Drubpoen
Dechen, sent letters to the monks, the administration, and the lay community
of Rumtek Monastery trying to intimidate them and to persuade them to
accept Urgyen Trinley as the 17th Karmapa.
At the beginning of November 1992,
Kunzig Shamar Rinpoche and the Rumtek monks held a meeting in Rumtek.
As he had already done in his talk in June 1992, Shamar Rinpoche again
stated that he knew of a person, a widely respected and trustworthy disciple
of the 16th Karmapa, who claimed to be in possession of the genuine instructions
from the previous Karmapa. Rinpoche pointed out that the 16th Karmapa's
authentic reincarnation would manifest according to the unique quality
of the Karmapas. He also told the monks and trust members to take full
responsibility for the monastery and the Nalanda Institute in Rumtek.
On Nov. 17, 1992, Shamar Rinpoche
wrote a letter to the monks of Rumtek Monastery. He stated that he would
not object to the Chinese government's decision, that his agreement with
the Dalai Lama's decision had only been given out of his respect for the
Dalai Lama, and that he would hold firm to the sacred tradition and follow
the genuine instructions of the 16th Karmapa. He asked the monks that,
following the wishes of the 16th Karmapa, Rumtek Monastery be held jointly
by Rumtek's monks and the Trustees of the Karmapa Charitable Trust.
In November 1992, Gyaltsab
Rinpoche's people invited representatives from monasteries in Nepal to
Rumtek, where they were planning a meeting. During this time, people from
Nepal informed Rumtek that Situ Rinpoche and Gyaltsab Rinpoche were secretly
preparing a take-over of Rumtek Monastery.
On Nov. 20, 1992, the Rumtek
monks and Shamar Rinpoche held another gathering.
After the meeting, the monks informed the Sikkimese Chief Minister Bandari
that together with the Trustees of The Karmapa Charitable Trust, they
would take full responsibility for the affairs of Rumtek Monastery, and
that it was the Trust's responsibility to subject Situ Rinpoche's "prediction
letter" to a scientific test. They also declared that the administration
of Rumtek monastery was solely the responsibility of Rumtek's monks and
The Karmapa Charitable Trust, and that they would accept no other spiritual
authority. Their letter was followed by a number of similar statements
made by the khenpos (head monks), the Rumtek administration, the Nalanda
Institute, and the Rumtek Nunnery. They all declared that they would only
follow the decisions made by the Karmapa Charitable Trust, whose Trustees
were appointed by the 16th Karmapa himself and that they would not accept
any other decisions made by Lamas or political groups.
On Nov. 29, 1992, representatives
of the Rumtek Monk Community, the Rumtek administration, the Nalanda Institute
and the Rumtek Nunnery stated that until a clear agreement among the Rinpoches
was reached they would only follow the decisions of the Karmapa Charitable
Trust with Topga Rinpoche as the General Secretary.
On Nov. 30, 1992, against
the wish of the Rumtek community, a meeting organized by Situ Rinpoche
and Gyaltsab Rinpoche took place in Rumtek. It was called the "Kagyu
International Assembly" and claimed to consist of representatives
from all Kagyu monasteries and centers from around the world. In fact,
there were only Tibetans present. A number of resolutions, such as an
oath to never accept any other Karmapa than Urgyen Trinley, were passed.
Topga Rinpoche, the General Secretary of the Karmapa Charitable Trust,
was accused of serious offences and strongly condemned. A series of illegal
decisions were taken, such as the dismissal of the General Secretary.
The other trustees were threatened that if they did not support Urgyen
Trinley, they would be forced to resign from their posts. The Assembly
did not have any legal authority to interfere with the matters of the
Karmapa Charitable Trust and its decisions had no legal value. However,
the participants went so far as to replace the Karmapa Charitable Trust
with a new body. The new trust was formed with Gyaltsab Rinpoche as the
official administrator and a Drungyig Tenzin as the new General Secretary.
The documents to register the trust in Sikkim were sent to the authorities,
but the petition was dismissed. In Jan. 1993, Situ Rinpoche's and Gyaltsab
Rinpoche's party requested the withdrawal of the copies of Registration
of Resolutions from the Land Revenue Department in Sikkim.
In Dec. 1992, Kagyu centers
worldwide sent letters of support to the legal trustees of the Karmapa
Charitable Trust. The trustees were encouraged to continue with their
responsibility of managing Karmapa's institutions, a task that was personally
entrusted to them by the 16th Karmapa.
In the beginning of 1993,
the followers of Urgyen Trinley announced that the 17th Karmapa would
soon leave China and travel to the West. A number of petitions and letters,
requesting permission for Urgyen Trinley to enter India, were sent to
the Indian Government. Today, despite years of intense campaigning, it
is evident that the boy will never be allowed to leave occupied Tibet.
In 1993, some Sikkimese followers
of the 16th Karmapa filed a petition at the High Court of Sikkim in Gangtok.
Because of their suspicion of forgery, they demanded a forensic test of
Situ Rinpoche's "prediction letter" - the basis upon which Urgyen
Trinley was officially acknowledged as the 17th Karmapa.
In Jan. 1993, Situ Rinpoche
and Gyaltsab Rinpoche's party published an edition of the Kagyu magazine
"The Nectar of Dharma". The "Nectar of Dharma" had
first come out in Rumtek in the '80s. The 1993 edition reported mainly
on the "Kagyu International Assembly" that had taken place in
Rumtek between Nov. 30 and Dec. 3, 1992, hailing its illegal resolutions.
In May 1993, confidential
information pertaining to Communist China's political aims in Tibet became
publicly known. The Chinese authorities decided on a "final solution"
to break the Tibetan resistance. They planned to continue "manipulating
religious persons in Tibet for propaganda purposes".
In May 1993, Tenzin Choenyi
of the Buddhist center KTD-Woodstock, USA, mailed a letter to the Karma
Kagyu institutions world-wide in which he announced that Urgyen Trinley
would come to KTD-Woodstock in 1994 and that funds, amounting to US-$
200,000 should be collected for his visit.
On June 17, 1993, at a United
Nations Conference on Human Rights in Vienna, Austria, the Chinese delegates
announced "that the Karmapa, the future successor of the Dalai Lama,
was preparing for his tasks in Tibet".
In July 1993, the legal administration
of Rumtek published a "Rumtek Newsletter", where the activities
of the Rumtek administration and the events surrounding the Karmapa controversy
On July 26, 1993, Kunzig Shamar
Rinpoche left Rumtek for Dharma events scheduled abroad. Shortly after
his departure Situ Rinpoche arrived at Rumtek.
On Aug. 2, 1993, Rumtek Monastery
was illegally and forcibly taken over by Situ Rinpoche and Gyaltsab Rinpoche's
supporters, many of whom were hired criminals disguised as monks. The
genuine Rumtek monks were threatened at gunpoint, harassed, and beaten
up. One of the 16th Karmapa's monks, the chanting master Umze Ngedon,
who was in possession of the keys to the main hall of the monastery, was
dragged around the monastery yard with his robes tied around his neck.
The police present in the monastery did nothing to stop the attack and
even supported the intruders. Some of Rumtek's genuine monks were arrested
and later imprisoned in Ranipool. The resident monks had to flee the monastery.
They sought shelter in Shamar Rinpoche's residence where they continued
their monastic routine in cramped conditions. The genuine monks sent a
letter to Situ Rinpoche asking him to leave Rumtek, since he had caused
such disruption at Karmapa's headquarters. There were rumors that Situ
Rinpoche's and Gyaltsab Rinpoche's party planned to remove Karmapa's Black
Crown and other relics from the monastery and take them to China. During
the following 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.
On Aug 4, 1993, Shamar Rinpoche
gave an interview to the German Karma Kagyu Association about the attack
on Rumtek. He expressed his great concern for the monks, who had been
intimidated, beaten and forced to leave the monastery, and in general
for the situation in the monastery. The same day people from Situ Rinpoche's
party signed an open letter in Gangtok, Sikkim containing serious accusations
against Shamar Rinpoche.
On Aug. 13, 1993, a variety
of organizations from Gangtok, Sikkim formed "The Action Committee",
a group that would apply pressure on anyone who disputed Situpa's letter
and his candidate. A few days later the Committee members staged a violent
protest in front of the Sikkimese Supreme Court and in front of the home
of Mr. Sherab Gyaltsen, a trustee of the Karmapa Charitable Trust.
On Aug. 22, 1993, a letter
was mailed from Samye Ling, Akong Rinpoche's center in Scotland, announcing
that Urgyen Trinley would come to Europe and America in 1994 and requesting
funds as extensive financial resources were needed for Urgyen Trinley's
On Sept. 12, 1993, Shamar
Rinpoche sent an open letter to Situ Rinpoche to inform him that he disapproved
of Situ Rinpoche's activities and that he would try to reverse, by legal
means, all the latest changes that Situ Rinpoche had made to the status
and peace of Rumtek Monastery.
On Jan. 25, 1994, Kunzig Shamar
Rinpoche made an announcement in Tibetan and in English that the 16th
Karmapa's authentic reincarnation had been found. Thereupon, Situ Rinpoche's
and Gyaltsab Rinpoche's party held secret meetings to plan a "confrontation"
between the two Karmapas including one in Kathmandu, Nepal with many prominent
followers of Situ Rinpoche: Thrangu Rinpoche, Mr. Juchen Thubten, Drungyig
Tenzin, Jinpa Lodro, and others.
On Feb. 9, 1994, representatives
from various monasteries addressed a letter to the Dalai Lama in which
they referred to Shamar Rinpoche's announcement. They reminded the Dalai
Lama of his approval of Urgyen Trinley, said that there can be only one
Karmapa and emphasized that they disagreed with Shamar Rinpoche.
On March 17, 1994, Kunzig
Shamar Rinpoche welcomed Tenzin Chyentse (Trinley Thaye Dorje) as the
genuine reincarnation of the 16th Karmapa at the Karmapa International
Buddhist Institute (KIBI) in New Delhi. Karmapa Trinley Thaye Dorje had
been living in Tibet until early 1994 when, together with his family,
he left for India. After the ceremony, a group of monks and laymen organized
by Situ Rinpoche and Gyaltsab Rinpoche's party gathered in front of KIBI
and demonstrated against Karmapa Trinley Thaye Dorje. They shouted slogans,
threw stones at the Institute, at the monks and the visitors, and tried
to storm the premises. Several people, among them Western followers of
the Karmapa who had come to attend the welcoming ceremony, were injured
and had to be hospitalized. The violent incident was witnessed by almost
500 people and recorded on videotape. The protesters, accusing Shamar
Rinpoche and Topga Rinpoche of presenting a fake Karmapa, shouted that
they would never accept their choice and that the two Rinpoches were going
against the Dalai Lama. They also claimed that the boy was a member of
Shamar Rinpoche's family, which was not true.
On March 19, 1994, Shamar Rinpoche gave a public talk at KIBI. He stated that he would reveal the details about the finding of the 17th Karmapa when the appropriate time came. He said that he didn't object to anyone, who accepted the Chinese installed boy, but that he would disagree if someone forced him to follow that "Karmapa." He emphasized that he wanted a spiritually, and not a politically, appointed Karmapa and welcomed everybody who wished to follow him. He pointed out that the Karmapa's reincarnations did not require the acceptance of a government.
On March 31, 1994, Shamar Rinpoche
wrote a letter to the board of trustees of the Karmapa Charitable Trust
in which he gave a summary of his activities since 1981. He stated that
he would reveal the authentic instructions of the previous Karmapa at
the appropriate time.
In March 1994, letters of
protest were sent from various Kagyu lamas such as Thrangu Tulku, Sangye
Nyenpa Tulku and Tenga Tulku. They all objected to Karmapa Trinley Thaye
Dorje. At the same time, several Kagyu Rinpoches came secretly to Delhi
to meet Karmapa Trinley Thaye Dorje.
On April 3, 1994, Shamar Rinpoche
wrote an account of the discovery of the 17th Karmapa. He recounted how,
beginning in 1986, he had received reports of the special qualities of
a boy Trinley Thaye Dorje. He described how he had sent emissaries to
Tibet to contact and check the child and how the Karmapa had revealed
himself as the genuine reincarnation. In 1988, the person who claimed
to have received the genuine instructions from the 16th Karmapa had contacted
On April 6, 1994, some Indian
newspapers reported the news of Bhandari's prosecution by the Sikkimese
Supreme Court on corruption charges. Bhandari, the Chief Minister of Sikkim,
had supported Situ Rinpoche in his activities regarding the Karmapa reincarnation.
On April 23, 1994, a meeting
between the Dalai Lama's administration and the legal Rumtek administration
took place. Shamar Rinpoche's position, as well as the position of Rumtek's
genuine monks was clarified.
On May 16, 1994, the Tibetan
Radio in Tibet broadcast the "prediction letter" presented by
Situ Rinpoche. A written version was published as well. The wording was
quite different from the original version shown by Situ Rinpoche in 1992.
Awkward and grammatically incorrect passages had been rewritten.
On June 14, 1994, the Sikkimese
Monks' Union passed a resolution in which they declared that they only
wanted a genuine Karmapa based on authentic instructions. They also complained
about the bad treatment they had received from the Sikkimese government.
On July 12, 1994, Rumtek's
genuine monks addressed a letter to the Chief Secretary in Sikkim. They
complained of the illegal removal of numerous precious articles of religious
worship from Rumtek Monastery. They listed the missing items, and expressed
their concern that Karmapa's Black Hat and Situ Rinpoche's "prediction
letter" might have been also removed.
On Aug. 2, 1994, the Ministry
of Home Affairs of the Government of India, declared that Situ Rinpoche
was officially banned from entering India due to his anti-India activities.
On Sept. 18, 1994, the World Tibet Network reported Situ Rinpoche's ban
On Sept. 22, 1994, the World
Tibet Network broadcast a report about Urgyen Trinley, the ten-year-old
"Living Buddha", The report stated that the boy had set out
on a pilgrimage to Beijing. This was followed by a series of articles
on Urgyen Trinley's visit to his Chinese "Motherland".
In Nov. 1994, having been
banned from India, Situ Rinpoche set out on a lecture tour in Europe.
Enclosed in the promotion for Rinpoche's talks was a fundraising letter
that emphasized Situ Rinpoche's great need for money.
In 1994, an ugly incident
took place in Rumtek: Benza Guru, a 51-year-old housekeeper of the late
16th Karmapa was murdered by individuals illegally occupying Rumtek Monastery.
He had refused to leave the monastery and had been repeatedly threatened
by the occupants. Even though his murder was reported to the local police,
no one has been arrested to this day.
In Dec. 1994, elections were
held in Sikkim. The ruling party suffered a severe defeat. This marked
the end of Chief Minister Bhandhari's rule. While in power, he had actively
supported Situ Rinpoche and Gyaltsab Rinpoche. Police under his command
had harassed the Rumtek monks as well as all of Shamar Rinpoche's supporters
On Feb. 17, 1995, members
of the Rumtek monks' community, such as Nendo Rinpoche, Chultrimpa and
others, addressed a letter to the new Chief Minister of Sikkim, Pawan
Kumar Chamling. They stated that people associated with Situ Rinpoche
continued his anti-national activities, that the original monks in Rumtek
were still heavily suppressed, that the monastery was still in the hands
of Situ Rinpoche's and Gyaltsab Rinpoche's side, and that the police still
supported the illegal occupation. The Chief Minister was requested to
take action so that law and order would be restored in Rumtek.
In the spring of 1995, there
were many reports distributed by official Chinese news agencies about
Urgyen Trinley in Tsurphu,. The reports disclosed, for example, that the
boy promised "always to follow the Communist Party of China".
In April 1995, after the change of government in Sikkim, Topga Yulgal, the legal General Secretary of the Karmapan Charitable Trust, was able to return to Sikkim in order to assume his functions. His entry had been blocked by the former government.
On May 8, 1995, Lurnyuk, a
local Sikkimese newspaper, published an article about Topga Rinpoche,
the General Secretary of the Karmapa Charitable Trust, and his strong
support in Sikkim.
In May 1995, the Panchen Lama
issue was discussed worldwide on the Internet and in the news media. The
course of events clearly showed how Communist China continued to use the
so-called "Living Buddhas" for her own political aims.
On August 8, 1995, Topga Rinpoche
and the Karmapa's original monks peacefully - with flowers in their hands
- marched to Rumtek monastery in order to return to their rightful home
and place of worship. However, they were brutally stopped and denied access
to their temple by the illegal occupants of the cloister. The monks started
then an indefinite hunger strike in front of the gates to their monastery
as protest against the continuing, illegal occupation of Rumtek. In addition
to the monks, the nuns, and lay people from Rumtek, as well as the Sikkimese
people joined in the hunger strike.
On Aug. 8, 1995, Situ Rinpoche
and Gyaltsab Rinpoche's side issued articles on the Internet in which
the Rumtek monks were accused of having violently attacked the monastery.
On Aug. 9, 1995, a press release
by the monk community of Rumtek Monastery and eyewitnesses' reports presented
the monks' version of their march on Rumtek and subsequent hunger strike.
At the end of September 1995,
after nearly two months, the 16th Karmapa's monks had to abandon their
hunger strike. Rumtek Monastery, Karmapa's main seat outside Tibet, is
today still in the hands of intruders.
During March 1996 an International
Karma Kagyu Conference took place in KIBI, New Delhi, India. The conference
was convened at the request of the original monastic community of Rumtek
Monastery. Representatives from Karma Kagyu Monasteries and Dharma Centers
in the Himalayan region as well as from Dharma Centers from twenty-four
countries from around the world attended. Kunzig Shamar Rinpoche presented
the background of his recognition of Karmapa Thaye Dorje as the 17th incarnation
of Gyalwa Karmapa. The Karmapa resident monks reported on the course of
events at Rumtek Monastery related to the Karmapa issue.
In Dec. 1996, the 17th Karmapa Thaye Dorje presided over the Monlam Chenmo, great aspiration prayers, in Bodh Gaya, India, and the place of Buddha's enlightenment. Also, for the first time in history a Karmapa had his hair cut in Bodh Gaya - a ceremony that officially initiated his activity in the world. Over 6.000 monks and nuns as well as a large number of Rinpoches and lamas from the Himalayan region attended the event.
In september 1997 Togba Rinpoche dies from liver cancer
Situpa's banishment from India is rescinded
On Dec. 28, 1999 Orgyen Trinley leaves secretly
Tsurphu monastery in Tibet
On Jan 5, 2000 around 10:30 A.M., Orgyen Trinley
arrrives safe and sound in Dharamsala, India