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Latest Statement from HH Karmapa's Office

posted 2/4/2011

A revered holy man touted as successor to the Dalai Lama, stacks of cash in 25 denominations including Chinese currency carried out of a Tibetan monastery in a tin trunk,accusations of spying for China in India's sensitive border areas. Interested in the story? You would certainly want to read more, particularly if it was in the press or TV news day after day and it was about an important spiritual leader.

That is the story told by the Indian press for the last week about HH Karmapa, the very same person who escaped China in a harrowing 900 mile journey into the welcoming arms of the Dalai Lama in 2000; the same hero who made world headlines and became a poster boy for the Tibet Cause. Ten years later he is portrayed, without a shred of evidence, as a spy for China in a sleazy story of suspicious cash.

In India the press is not effectively governed by the same laws of libel as it is in Western countries. The laws may be in place but suing a newspaper for libel and winning is well-nigh impossible. Journalists can be bought for fairly small amounts of money. Freedom of the press has created irresponsible journalism. Even serious newspapers print the stories of hacks.

The latest news story to alarm the Indian public with threats of reds under the bed is that a Tibetan Buddhist Lama bearing a title of His Holiness the 17th Gyalwang Karmapa, and  carrying a name of Ogyen Trinley Dorje is being investigated in connection with a “possible land purchase transaction”, which by local Indian state law is made rather difficult for some, and impossible for others; and the possession of a large sum of foreign currency in cash. He is suspected of using this money to influence monasteries on the Chinese border areas because he is, in all probability, a spy for China.


So far, it has been announced:

  • A car has been intercepted driving  from New Delhi to Dharmsala carrying  approximately $200,000 USD in cash.

  • Two Indian men and a Tibetan have been detained by the Indian police. The money was payment for land in Himachal Pradesh which would be used to construct a permanent home for His Holiness the Karmapa and his staff.

  • Since only Himachali born Indians can legally own land in Himachal, the purchase was to be done in the name of another person and not His Holiness Karmapa who is a Tibetan refugee.

  • How the police knew about the money in this particular car and what is the crime of  transporting that money remains for now unknown.  In many papers it is reported as a tip-off.

  • The day after seizing the car, its passengers and the cash, Indian authorities came to  the temporary residence of His Holiness the Karmapa at Gyuto Monastery, located about 24 km. outside Dharmsala and conducted a search of the office and other facilities used by His Holiness and his staff.  Gyuto monastery does not belong to the Karmapa as he is only a “temporary guest” there. (The Karmapa does not own a monastery in Himachal, as the press have reported.)Their search was for more cash, and they discovered and confiscated an equivalent of about $750,000 - $1,500,000 USD. The cash was in about 20 different currencies.

  • The following day, the authorities came back and questioned some of the staff as well as His Holiness himself as to the origin of the money. All stated the same source: donation from devotees.

  • As of February 1st, the detained Tibetan man, the two Indian men, as well as His Holiness and his staff, are all under the investigation of central Indian government agencies.

There appear to be two reasons for the investigation:

  • Where did the money come from? It is illegal for Indians to hold foreign currency. Under the Foreign Currencies Regulation Act , It has to be declared to the authorities and deposited into a trust or foreign currency account.

  • Is His Holiness Karmapa, a Chinese spy?

About the Gyalwang Karmapa

His Holiness Karmapa is a recognized head of one of the four major schools of Tibetan Buddhism - the Kagyu school. As such, he holds the responsibility of maintaining and developing the uninterrupted lineage of more than 1,000 years of oral transmissions of the entire Kagyu canon of the Tibetan Buddhist teachings. Only 26 years of age, he is considered a very skillful teacher, compassionate friend and a powerful leader. He has enormous charisma.

Born in Tibet on June 26th, 1985  he was officially recognized as the Karmapa and enthroned at Tsurphu monastery, the main seat of the Karmapas at the age of eight in 1992. Since that time, he has spent almost all his time studying,  teaching and giving blessings in preparation for the big role he is expected to play.

On the eve of the year 2000, HH Karmapa devised a plan, to escape from his monastery in Tibet and seek refuge, as many of his fellow Tibetans have done, in India. After a arduous 5 day and night journey he reached Dharamsala, seat of the Tibetan Government in Exile, where he has been residing until the present day.

Major reasons for the Karmapa's escape from India:

1. To receive teachings from his main teachers, all of whom were living in India, particularly Tai Situ Rinpoche and Gyaltsap Rinpoche

A third important teacher, Shamar Rinpoche broke away from the lineage to find his own Karmapa candidate. He  found another boy and in effect, created another Karmapa. The result of  this breakaway is to cause so much confusion that the recognised Karmapa cannot take up his monastic seat established by his predecessor at Rumtek monastery in Sikkim. India fears that merely the presence of the Karmapa in Sikkim, a state annexed by India in 1975, may destabilize the region. Sikkim's  border with  China remains a vital buffer between the two countries.

2. Not to fall under Chinese  influence and be made a political pawn.

As HH Karmapa is a very important and influential figure in Tibetan society, second only to HH the Dalai Lama, he would have been instrumental in helping the Chinese control the Tibetans.  However, the Karmapas have never played a political role in Tibet in 1200 years of their history. They  remained strictly spiritual teachers to their disciples. The current incarnation has stated that he will continue that tradition and does not intend to take any political role.

Living, Working and Traveling Conditions of HH Karmapa

Since arriving in India in 2000, His Holiness has not been permitted to build his own monastery or living quarters. He has been living in a small section of Gyuto Tantric Monastery, located about 24km from Dharmsala. The monastery belongs to the Gelug school of Tibetan Buddhism and thus falls under the auspices of HH the Dalai Lama. In other words, His Holiness is not only not at home, but he is not even among his fellow monks. This statement may seem a bit strange to those not familiar with Tibetan Buddhism and its organizational structures. Each school runs their affairs differently and  independently. As one journalist put it, 'It's like housing the Archbishop of Canterbury at the Vatican'. (Norma Levine, The Karmapa is Caught in a Political Game, The Guardian, December 1st, 2010)
Nonetheless, HH the Dalai Lama, did grant permission for His Holiness the Karmapa to stay in one of his monasteries, namely Gyuto.

HH Karmapa's private quarters consist of a small bedroom, about 2 meters by 3 meters, a small audience room, a bare roof top, small kitchen and bathroom amounting to approximately 15mtrs square in total. His Holiness’ staff has an additional few rooms below for living, an office space, accommodating about 10 desks, a private library and a few utility rooms. All this totals about 400 sq. meters of living and working space. For someone who bears the responsibility equivalent to that of a head of state and has a working staff of about 100 (not counting volunteers and devotees who come and help on an ongoing basis) this living and working space is woefully inadequate.

For many years, HH Karmapa and his staff have been requesting both the Indian and Tibetan governments for permission to build their own living quarters. Permission has always been denied with no specific  reason given.

If the Karmapa wants to leave the grounds of Gyuto monastery he must first ask permission of the local state police as well as that of the Tibetan government. (If that sounds to you like house arrest, well, it is.).  Remember, the Karmapa made his escape at the age of fourteen and has been 'living' in this confinement ever since. His  request to travel within or without the borders of India are frequently and without explanation denied.

Some examples:

1. 2010 - A carefully planned, 5 week European Tour was, at the last minute, denied causing large monetary losses to many European centers and His Holiness’ office as many expenses had to be prepaid.

2. .2010- A carefully planned and paid for, 5 day trip to West and South India to attend a science conference and a religious ceremony was denied.

3. 2010 - A private 2 week visit to his main seat in North America, ( where he was allowed to visit only once in 2008 ) was also denied.

4. 2011 - A 2 week visit to Vancouver, Canada is being planned for His Holiness for some time this year. No one knows what chances there are of that being allowed or denied.

Considering HH Karmapa regularly travels with a staff of 10-15 people, and that travel tickets, hotels, and security measures have to be arranged long in advance of such trips, the situation causes a logistical nightmare, great monetary losses and above all a strong sense of discomfort both for the Karmapa and his hosts.

Activity of HH Karmapa

There are stories of the Karmapa's compassionate activity since his birth, even before he was given the title of Karmapa. His entire education has only one purpose: to be able to instruct and lead his disciples on the path of enlightenment. More than anything else, he does so by personal example.

The Environment
HH Karmapa has been an out-spoken leader for the protection of the environment and in particular of the Himalayan region. In 2009 ( at an age of 24 ), he established the Khoryug organization to promote and sustain environmentally conscious living in all of his monasteries. http://www.khoryug.com/. He himself became a vegetarian ( an extreme rarity among the Tibetan people) and asked all his monasteries to refrain from cooking meat in their kitchens.

The Dharma
His Holiness regularly offers Dharma teachings to his disciples. Taught in a very direct, modern and clear way, translated into as many as 11 languages on the spot, these gatherings often reach 4,000 or 5,000 and during the annual Kagyu Monlam, exceed 10,000 people. And amazingly, after each session most people feel as if His Holiness was speaking to them directly. His compassion, power and inspiration is always felt by those who come and attend. Since last year, most of His Holiness teachings are also available live via webcasts and online. http://kagyuoffice.org/hhk_video_index.php.

The Karmapa is already a very accomplished painter, poet and graphic designer.
In 2010, he wrote, directed and built from scratch a theatrical play based on the life story of one of the greatest saints of Tibet, the yogi poet Milarepa. This immense undertaking, staged in a middle of field in India’s poorest region of Bihar,drew a crowd of over 15,000 and was such a moving artistic, cultural and national spectacle that it is still talked about. This was probably the biggest show of Tibetan culture and art in recent years.

The Power of Karmapa's Compassion
I have personally, seen and experienced how His Holiness handles conflict, difficult situations and adversity. His mere presence in a room is enough to bring people to tears. Tears of joy, tears of devotion, tears of faith. He soothes the most difficult of situation with such ease, such grace, such understanding that words could never contain the power of compassion he unleashes into his every move, his every breath.

Is it then surprising that devotees come from every corner of the world to seek his blessing, hear his teachings, and appreciate his genius? And every one of these devotees brings an offering, frequently a white scarf and an envelope with cash from their own country as a token of esteem to place before the living Buddha. I have been in the endless queues, many times. Never once has the Karmapa looked at the offering. He looks into your eyes and knows you; hence the mantra Karmapa Kyenno. Karmapa, know me.

Now, that's worth something.

Perhaps the Indian press will get the message.


Latest information from HH Karmapa's office forwarded by Ringu Tulku Rinpoche to send to All

Dear Friends,

Many of you have written to express your support for His Holiness the Karmapa at this time when such wild accusations are being leveled against him. Your support is greatly appreciated and warmly felt here.

We know that you would like to determine the best way to express and act on that support. In order that you are fully informed as to the situation, we are attaching a fact sheet here that you can refer to in case you are responding to media. However, we ask that you not seek press coverage if this is not a major story in your national press. If media coverage does appear, please do forward our press statements (available on www.kagyuoffice.org) to the press, make yourself available for interviews, and circulate them widely (including on your websites).

When you do so, please adhere strictly to the fact sheet that we have compiled. Please do not point fingers at anyone or be drawn into speculation about motivations. Please do not speak negatively in any way of the Indian government. Please express our collective gratitude to the Indian Government for giving refuge to His Holiness and to the Tibetan people in their hour of need. We cannot stress these two points strongly enough. We thank you for respecting these guidelines.

We see this moment as an opportunity to directly address the insinuations and fabrications that have been dogging His Holiness for the last 11 years. With the allegations now openly aired, we have a chance to clear the air once and for all. Once the facts become known, we will have a basis to ask the Government of India to put this matter to rest, to allow His Holiness to travel freely and to visit Sikkim. Please do feel free to express this. This is a positive outcome we can look forward to once the truth is finally out.

Of course, the charges that His Holiness is a Chinese spy are preposterous. Please do know that we have seen the strongest possible assertions of confidence in this fact from all quarters of Tibetan society, including His Holiness the Dalai Lama, the entire Parliament, leaders of the Tibetan government-in-exile and prominent members of the Free Tibet movement. In fact, the unanimous rejection of this charge has strengthened the position of His Holiness.

We hope this clears up the confusion that the wild inaccuracies in the press have stirred up. Please see the attached fact sheet for more details.


Karma Chungyalpa

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